How I Learned to Fly: Flying, Spying, and All That Diving ...

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An ex-fighter-pilot-turned-CFI has an endearing but unorthodox teaching method.

TrainingI did not have a clue what I was in for.

Young, naive, but with a thirst for the air that has yet to be quenched, I approached Mansfield Airport some 20 odd years ago and climbed into what I thought was a small trainer airplane, the formidable Cessna 150.

Then my instructor began the beguine. We climbed ever skyward, on the lookout for mythical targets about us. "Look, there's one!" he gruffly shouted. Innocently, I looked about and queried, "Where?" "Why, our 6 o'clock. Let's dive!" And off we were in a dive towards our ghostly prey, not in a 150 built in the early 70's, but in a P38 fighter, ever ready for danger and high drama.

I loved it and couldn't wait to get up those coming Saturdays as the sun barely hit tree top level and we were airborne again and I was hearing over and over his stories of conquest and crashes and of friends long gone. We wore no headsets then, but his voice was easy to hear and from it I gained all the confidence I needed to master the air. It was in our blood and he never bored from it.

Others might have found his manner strange, the repeating over and over, but from it I found much to learn.

The yoke was mine from the start and only taken away on those quick 6 o'clock dives for unseen targets. Through his eyes I scanned about the horizon and saw how the sky met the earth. He, through those too few lessons, tried to give me the accumulation of what he knew.

Fuel was running low in the early '70's, and at first I didn't understand why, on my first solo, he was driving his car madly about the runway. How was I to know I was supposed to just take off, go around and land and not fly away?

We had never used the unicom, so I could not hear him. All I knew was that I had to solo and I was ready.

I miss you, Mr. Kenny Sullivan. I still fly, when the early sun is at tree top level, and look for 6 o'clock targets.