Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Under the Wire Fly-In

When I was about 11, this guy named Robbie showed up at a fly-in with a Stearman biplane he'd restored. We got to know him, and when it came time to re-cover the fabric on our J-3 Cub in the winter of 1991, he got the job. That next fall, I went to my first fly-in at his little grass strip in Louise, Texas (T26).

The fly-in was called (jokingly at first) the Under the Wire Fly-In. This was because there was a powerline that went directly across the runway at midfield. I never really thought it was a challenge for my Uncle (I always rode to the fly-in with him in the Cub) or any of the other pilots---it was just interesting.

This past weekend, Alisa and I went to the 20th annual Under the Wire Fly-In. It really occurred to me on the flight over that so many things have changed over the years, yet so many things have stayed the same. And they're all important.

The wire has been gone for years now. I doubt that more than a handful of the attendees know why it's called "Under the Wire." Many fixtures of the southeast Texas aviation community are gone: Warren Ball and his airport (where I learned to fly) are now history, Glenn Jeffries, who kept Ball Airport and all our planes running, is gone, as is Robbie's dad, my grandmother Colleen, and so many others who used to turn out for stuff like this.

I've gone from being a once-a-month pilot to a professional flight instructor. And, for the past 6 years I've been bringing my fiancee/wife to the fly-in. My sister Amy has also added to the fly-in, bringing her guy Wesley at first as a wide-eyed spectator and now as a professional ag pilot.

Just as important as the changes are the things that have stayed the same. There are the people who you only see once a year at the fly-in. There are the airplanes that return year after year (sometimes even after changing owners). There's the same dedication to "old school" aviation. This may be the largest concentration of people who can hand-prop an airplane and land a taildragger in a crosswind to gather anywhere in our area. And, there's the same reinvigoration of why we care so much about aviation.

Life got in the way a few times, but I haven't missed many fly-ins. One of the more underrated blessings of my leaving Baylor is that I don't have to be on my way out of town to recruit "smarties" over the fly-in weekend. In fact, that was the only thing that was a negative about taking that job---I knew I wouldn't always be at the fly-in.

Some things are too important to miss. The Under the Wire Fly-In transcends all those changes and continues to hold a special place in the hearts of those of us who love to fly.

I have an album from the fly-in at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2277219&id=9210527&l=8b4876891b. You can access it even if you're not a member of Facebook. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, Aaron. I love the sentimental facets of being a pilot. I often ponder all the small, dusty little strips onto which I've landed over the years. I can imagine how old-timers must feel when they revisit an airport where they served as young hotshot pilots.

    It'll be us someday, man. Enjoy every day. :)