IT’S SO STRANGE! For the last several months, since I returned from Florida, Puff was in my mind every day. So many adventures with the little seaplane, adventures with Dan and his own plane Jennifer, spun in bright film strips clear as life sometimes, sometimes an old monochrome, fading.
Last week, though, a message from Dan, that Puff was ready to come home. They were about to fly 3,700 miles together, it would take 50-some flying hours, seven days to come home. All those days I was haunting the computer weather sites as they slipped from one weather to the next: missed a storm, tossed into winds that shuddered them both.
Mississippi they crossed, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, and then the sound of Puff again, entering the pattern to land here! Dan and Puff eased the power one last time back to idle, and squeak-squeak! touched her wheels to the runway.
A minute later, Dan waved from the cockpit, I waved back, not a word. Her wheels stopped on the grass, and in a minute her engine slid down into silence. Dusty, windblown, bounced from a week in the rough air, they were home.
Dan gradually began telling me the story of the flight. Puff had finished a long flight, and I felt the quiet sense of her: We did it! I’m home!
“There’s a lot of this country that’s wilderness,” said Dan. “Mile after mile of wilderness.”
We had been there together before, but this time I had to imagine. Dan and Puff had lived this flight, every minute. Temperatures from below freezing to a hundred degrees, winds to forty miles per hour (“…by Banning Pass, our groundspeed was 30 miles per hour…”), brush fires in Southern California, Puff’s wheels didn’t extend for an electrical failure near Oregon (so she landed on a lake); no radios, no flight plan, but a locater that told us where she was every minute.
She was home, tools all around her and gentle care: oils and soaps and a closed hangar at last against the wind and rain.
Dan was off soon to Hong Kong and Japan with yet another sister of Jenn and Puff, floating on a ship. But it was important for him to fly with me, some air work and some water landings, my months of idleness come to an end at last. Somehow, flying a little airplane is like commanding a winged bicycle…one doesn’t forget how to fly.
Dan will come back, we’ll fly together again, but all at once he was gone to different skies.
The next day I took it slowly, little things to do after her long flight: change her oil, new oil filter, clean her air filters, wash her thoroughly, apply grease and oil to every fitting, every hinge, every moving part about her. The next two days. What I couldn’t wash away was her deep satisfaction of a long flight well finished.
Do you wonder why some people, after years of flying, they love their airplanes?