Saturday, June 24, 2006


One of my favorite jobs to date was the two years I spent at Executive Jet Aviation, now known as NetJets. The computer programming work was interesting and I always believed that it was a very professionally and ethically run company, but the biggest attraction for me by far was that I got to fly in the jets now and then. The pilots were very generous in allowing me to ride along on training or positioning flights, so when I was contacted by a current NetJets pilot wanting to know a bit about RVs, I couldn't help but to offer him a ride. He flies the Hawker 400XP as his day job, but he's thinking about building an RV-8 to, as he puts it, put the fun back into flying.

I understand where he's coming from with that sentiment, it having been a very conscious decision of mine to not pursue flying as a career. I've always intuitively felt that the vast difference between flying because you want to and flying because you have to would suck the magic and joy out of flying entirely, and I couldn't stomach the idea of that happening. Additionally, I'm not sure people fully appreciate what a difficult job and lifestyle working as a professional pilot can be. I'm far too much of a home body to relish the idea of seven days on the road, not knowing where you'll be on any given night.

As I was walking out the door sans camera, I reminded myself of my recent re-affirmation of the "always bring the camera" rule, and I'm glad I did, although I'm going to make you scroll down to the bottom of this posting to see why. We had agreed to meet at the airport gate at 9:00, but I showed up at 8:45 reasonably confident that he'd be early. They always are. The weather was far better than forecast with essentially no clouds, great visibility, and an easily managed 6 knot wind from the north-ish. We saddled up and flew up to Urbana-Grimes for breakfast. Urbana has a nice turf runway right next to the paved runway, and since I hadn't had a grass runway landing since the fiasco up at Allen Co., (I know you're wondering, but I'd rather not say) I decided to avail myself of the opportunity for a refresher. I ended up a bit high and slow in the flare so I didn't have a whole lot of energy left for an extended flare, but I timed the one shot I had at a smooth-ish landing pretty well and avoided a humiliating plop to earth in front of a professional jet pilot by the barest of margins.

Upon taxiing in, we got a closer look at an unexpected airplane parked right by the restaurant, this WWII B-25 medium bomber:

I naturally couldn't avoid the photo op with my faux-fighter escort:

I wish I had parked it a bit closer, but as it was I got growled at by some form of officious airport employee wondering if I intended to move the plane elsewhere. And good morning to you too, kind sir!

As if the great weather, tasty breakfast, fun flying talk, and getting some nice shots of a very pristine B-25 weren't enough, I managed to absolutely grease the landing back at Bolton. The kind of landing where you can feel the wheels spinning up as they lightly kiss the runway are so few and far between that they are immensely gratifying no matter when you get one, but to butter one on like that with a professional jet pilot as a witness is, as they say in the credit card commercials, priceless!

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