Feb 2020 My Love Story: Fly Good, Love Hard
Oh baby, I think we’re onto something here! I’m lovin’ your self-blogging and our February theme, “My Love Story”. Hey, it’s February, the month of LOVE, and what better topic than Love Stories involving aviation?
This wonderful post is from student pilot Kayla Fairchild based at 15G, Ashland, Ohio.
You too can submit your love story. Click for details on how to enter ‘My Love Story’ contest.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “any idiot can fly a plane but it takes a special idiot to jump out of one.” I am, in fact, the idiot they were referring to. I learned how to “fall out of airplanes with style” before I ever learned how to fly ’em. In Ohio, skydivers only have fun 6 months out of the year due to weather. So I decided to get a hobby during the off season… I did what any rational person itching for some altitude therapy would do — I signed up for a flight lesson. On a warm March day, I sat in the cockpit of a Cessna 150 for the first time and flew. I really enjoyed the fact that I could stay up in the sky as long as I wanted with the help of an engine. (unlike skydiving) I didn’t have the finances for two expensive hobbies at the time so I left the airport with no intent to start flying anytime soon. I had so many questions however, so I started networking around the airport. I crossed paths with a CFI and A&P named Michael Keegel. But I call him Mic. He was basically my own personal aviation encyclopedia. He answered all of my airplane questions and I was able to answer all of his questions about skydiving, since he had been considering going himself for quite some time.
On a sunny, Sunday afternoon in April, I got a text that said, “Hey, I’m going flying in 30 minutes for sunset. Do you wanna come?” Next thing I knew, I was in my car driving to the airport. As I pull in, I see this man waving out of the open window of this beautiful, yellow J3 Piper Cub taxiing down the taxiway. First impressions are important and let me tell you, Michael’s was a grand entrance. “Is he waving at me?” I thought. I felt like I was in some kind of movie. “This can’t be real.” We taxied down to the end of the runway, climbed out and made a 90 degree turn directly into the magical sunset; flying low and slow. I had never experienced this kind of flying before or a person who was qualified to do so. I thought, “What have I been doing my whole life when I could have been doing something like this?!” I spent the whole flight cheesing from ear to ear. My cheeks hurt for hours after we landed. I don’t think anyone ever made me smile like that before.
We saw each other every weekend after that first date. In fact, the very next weekend — on our second date, I asked him if he wanted to do his first solo skydive with me so I could show him what it was like in my little corner of the sky. So there we were in a Cessna Blackhawk Caravan, climbing to 13,500 feet. I remember looking back and seeing his face light up with excitement on that ride to altitude. Man, that smile was out of this world!
That was the end of life “as we knew it.” We spent every sunny day after that doing what we loved, which was being up there, instead of down here. We took day trips in the Cub to Lake Erie islands and beautiful grass strips around Ohio. We did formation flying with his friends, sunset flights after a long day of work, and just low-and-slow cub flights on lazy afternoons. Whenever Mic would fly the Cub, I’d be right there co-piloting with him.
When we weren’t flying, we were jumping. We would jump our butts off from sunrise to sunset. It took Michael only 8 weeks to get his license, which is a very short amount of time to do 25 skydives. Him getting his license was something I had been waiting for since the day I met him. To finally be in free fall… together. I think the whole world stopped for us on that jump. It was just him and I dancing around each other falling 120 mph towards the Earth. We are both licensed skydivers now and we plan on getting our coach rating together this season to teach others how to skydive.
While I was busy falling in love with Mic, I was also falling deeply in love with aviation. He gave me dual time in the Cub after awhile and I think that’s finally when I caught the bug for myself. I loved the simplicity of the J3 Cub. Every time we would fly, Michael would make an effort to teach me something new. We ended up going to EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2019 together. We ew a Cessna 182RG into Osh and camped beside it in our tent for ten days! We had 2 backpacks of luggage, camping supplies and lots of sunscreen. From waking up to T6 Texans flying formation at 7 am, to Warbird alley, we had landed smack dab in the heart of aviation and we loved every minute.
These days, Michael is teaching me to fly on the weekends. We are still skydiving (weather permitting) and love is in fact “still in the air.” We have many travel plans this year — New York City, Oshkosh 2020 and a long overdue Florida trip, just to name a few. We have big plans of flying seaplanes in the Bahamas and owning a Cessna 180 together one day. I will have my private pilot license and tailwheel rating late this spring. And Mic and I will be USPA Coaches this summer. I like to think that our love story is as unique as we are. Two people who cultivate all each other’s eccentric pieces. The best gift you could ever give a woman is a lifetime full of adventures and airplanes. So… if you happen to find someone whose dreams are as wild and as crazy as yours… sit down, shut up, and CLEAR PROP!
by Kayla Fairchild