So, remember that prediction about becoming very grumpy? We did manage another short hop three days ago, but since then, every day has been staring up at the sky thinking it might get better, maybe in an hour, maybe tomorrow.
Not that I can really complain that much. I mean, remember, “another short hop” means “another chance to fly one of the more remarkable aircraft ever built”; most pilots I know would gladly mortgage their kids for “a short hop” in the P-51. And it was, I’ve got to admit, a rather glorious little hop; effortlessly climbing to breathtaking altitudes with power to spare, coming around in steep, high-G turns without slowing down, wingovers, loops, rolls – you just point her somewhere and she goes there like… like now, and keeps going. And yes, Mara’D, I absolutely nailed the landing.
I’m thinking it’s probably precisely that superlative, dreamlike feeling of flying the plane that makes it so hard to not be flying her. Maybe this is what a junkie feels like when he’s told “no, maybe we’ll get you a fix this afternoon, maybe tomorrow.” As I said, I’ve been remarkably grumpy these past few days, and now we’ve run out of time. No matter what happens over the next few days, I’m going to have to find some other time to come out and do the checkout so that I can serve as a tour pilot.
I’m up in Daytona now, for the Collings ground school. It’s a good distraction, getting to see old faces from the tour, trying to remember everybody’s names. These are good people: supportive, enthusiastic, nurturing of anyone who shares their passion for flight, or betrays even the slightest hint that they might be susceptible to the flying bug. I still feel like a pretender here; most are professional pilots, many current or ex-military. I have (and I don’t exaggerate) approximately 15% the flight time of the average Collings volunteer. But they know I have the bug, and they say “Aw hell, it’s not the total hours that matter,” and say they’ve talked with Jim or Rob or Eliot and know I’m a good stick, and are glad to have me along. So I’m feeling a bit better, but there’s still that grumpy streak.
Once ground school is over this afternoon, we’re all going to head down the the airport and poke about the planes a bit. If the weather’s cleared, maybe we’ll even get to fly a bit. And if not, hey, maybe tomorrow.