Visions Under My Wings

Frequent Flyers of the airline sort may think they’ve seen America but the fact is, nobody really sees America from aloft until they’ve experienced it from the cockpit of a low flying, small plane – preferably a taildragger. A jet can certainly get you to your destination in a hurry but for those who are really out to SEE America, it’s not about the destination at all. Pardon me but screw the destination – it’s about the journey and the landscape that unfolds beneath your wings.

Somewhere over Kentucky

I was reminded of that last week while flying a 270 nm trip in my Decathlon across Midwest America. Poised low enough for a good look and high enough for a little altitude to spare, I hummed along and quietly scanned the horizon and everything in-between. I love flights like this and no matter many how many years I do it, I never get bored. Flying a taildragger never gets old. Moving slowly across the countryside I’m curious about what’s under me, across the next field or over the next little hill. It’s not always possible but I prefer to fly with flexibility and don’t hesitate to veer off the pink line when “interesting” pops up a few miles off my wingtip. If I see something that strikes my fancy I’m going to go take a look!

If you’re a pilot, you know what I’m talking about. Last week’s flight delivered a constantly changing landscape of crooked creeks, tiny towns, church steeples, messy junkyards, and lonely country roads. There were decaying barns, dilapidated homesteads, tiny woods surrounded by acres of plowed fields, and a few random wetlands. I was also on the hunt for grass strips which I found plenty of, and a favorite, old cemeteries, as well as abodes like family farms, random trailers and mini-mansions. Oh so interesting!

Of course those are all stationary sights but not everything you see while flying stays put. Objects in motion were billowing smoke, moving trains, jet contrails, free-flowing river water and an occasional small plane slowly moving across my window.

With my engine humming along and an occasional scan of essential instruments, I’m able to focus on one tiny plot of land out my window and get sucked in. I fly along and watch it all unfold. I wonder about the people who live at each tiny, tucked away parcel of land I fly over. Who are these people and what’s the story on the very small to extremely large personal kingdoms each have created?

From a distance, one spot was particularly curious. I debated what I was seeing; randomly positioned old mobile homes? Junk semi-trailers? Boats on trailers? No – No – No. This property, just a couple miles north of Rough River Airport in Kentucky, had me circling repeatedly. Turns out it was Piper fuselages, mostly Aztecs and PA-28s, some others, all without wings. Woohoo, an airplane junkyard. Jackpot!!

Look close and you’ll see 50 or more scattered around. They’re inside open t-hangars and strewn about everywhere outside too.

And so I think you’ll agree. You find the most interesting places and objects simply by flying cross-country. If you have the time and the inclination, I’ve found it only gets better when you actually land, explore, and connect with the same people you’ve admired from aloft. Do it!! 

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