Dec 2012 The Amazing Gift
This may well be the happiest story I’ve ever posted on LadiesLoveTaildraggers and it happens to be about my friend Nancy Warren, 84 years young.Â Â Nancy is a pilot and truly remarkable woman who took her first flying lesson in her 50s. She’s a former Citabria owner, a member of LadiesLoveTaildraggers, and until recently, proud owner of CardinalÂ N30172.
Nancy will be the first to tell you she’s had a wonderful life with many happy hours spent aloft in her 30 years of flying. She has fond memories of the support and encouragement she received as a student pilot and early in her flying career. It was the contacts she made in the early years that paved the way for her to fly right-seat in DC3’s and Beech 18s.
At 84, Nancy appears to be the picture of health and even has a recent biannual & 3rd class medical. She could continue to fly but recognizes she’s slowing down a little ….. and that got her to thinking. Please read on and you’ll understand why I believe this is happiest story I’ve ever posted!
Always a Pilot
by Nancy Warren
ON JULY 12, 2012, I GAVE AWAY MY BELOVED CARDINAL 177, THE AIRPLANE THAT, FOR TWENTY-FIVEÂ YEARS, HAD SURELY AND SAFELY TRANSPORTED ME THROUGH MANY HOURS OF FLIGHT AND JOY-FILLED ADVENTURES .
For quite some timeâ€¦..especially the past few yearsâ€¦..I have thought about this time, even as I dreadedÂ it. Overriding the dread, however, was a growing commitment and determination to end my time in theÂ sky on a â€œhigh noteâ€.
I wondered if I would know when it was time to â€œhang it upâ€ in order to do that.
You see, IÂ didn’tÂ want to wait until I had gone past that time and incurred a bad experienceâ€¦for me, theÂ airplane, or anyone else. And I reallyÂ didn’tÂ want to â€œloseâ€ my license to fly; to have it taken from meÂ because of an inadvertent violation of the regulations, failing a flight physical, or any type of incidentÂ or accident. So, I waited and continued to fly, though not as often or as far as in the past. And, I neverÂ flew on days when IÂ didn’tÂ feel well and strong! (We do experience good days and bad days as we getÂ older, especially past 80.) However, I had passed my flight physical easily this year, also my BFR. BothÂ the plane and I were in good condition!
As time went on, the thought of my flying days ending somehow felt less painful and depressing. I evenÂ talked about it more.
And then, almost two years ago, I received a letter from a young pilot, Thomas Kieffer, who had readÂ my book and wanted to know if we could meet for breakfast or lunch and â€œtalk about flyingâ€. We met,Â talked flying, and I came away very impressed with this young man. Then, I met Eric DeBusk, anotherÂ young pilot, close friend and flying buddy of Thomas, who also greatly impressed me.
We had frequent contact with each other and the next thing I knew I was climbing into the rear seatÂ of their rented Cherokee 140 one day to fly to lunch and do some shopping with them. I loved it! FromÂ that time on, when the Cardinal and I were flying somewhere, one or both of them would go along ifÂ they were free. It gave them opportunities to fly and become familiar with the Cardinal. In no time, thisÂ unusual alliance of pilots, a 19 year-old, 21 year-old, and 83 year-old, were planning a flight to Sarasota,Â Florida. We made the flight in June, 2012. Had terrible weatherâ€¦.took two days to get thereâ€¦.visitedÂ an amazing number of airportsâ€¦.and had more fun than you could imagine!
The boys took turns in the left seat as PIC, while I rode in the right seat. This gave me time andÂ opportunity to observe how well they flew individually, their teamwork, and their judgment in dealingÂ with the challenging weather conditions. They did a great job and I was totally confident in their abilityÂ to fly well and safely.
In Florida, as the three of us were having breakfast one morning at the Blue Dolphin on Longboat Key, IÂ looked across the table at these two fine young pilots who had become as dear to me as grandsons, and I knew this was â€œthe timeâ€. I said, â€œThomas and Eric, I have something to tell you.â€ Both looked up from their breakfast with attention. (they are so courteous and respectful) â€œI am giving the Cardinal to the two of you.â€ Thomas looked stunned, and I think Eric had tears in his eyes. They trulyÂ didn’tÂ know what to say for a few seconds, and then they broke into smiles, laughter, and excited conversation.
Iâ€™m sure there was no sleeping by either one of them that night!
So, how did I feel then? Like I had just done the most important and the most â€œrightâ€ thing that IÂ could ever do in my life. It felt like giving back a little of all that had been given to me and done for meÂ throughout my journey in the world of aviation.
I have loved every moment of my time in the skiesâ€¦.embraced every adventureâ€¦.met every challenge,Â accepted every failure, and savored every triumph. I felt blessed to have done what Iâ€™d hoped to doâ€¦end my journey on a high note. Now, I could hand over the keys with a glad and grateful heart, for Iâ€™dÂ had my turnâ€¦.. now it was theirs. Even more, N30172 will remain in the area, and the boys and I will flyÂ together from time to time.
Did I have even a moment where I thought, â€œmy God! What have I done!?â€ Oh, yes! It was the dayÂ when all the paperwork was done and sent in to FAA, Insurance people, and State Revenue people.Â Suddenly the finality of it hit meâ€¦.I donâ€™t have an airplane anymore. I donâ€™t even feel like a pilotÂ anymore. Who am I now?
It was my flying buddy, Rusty, who rescued me that day with these words,Â “Before you were born, and after you leave this life, youÂ WILL ALWAYS BE A PILOT.”