The Time Machine
The chilling rain of
a late November afternoon amidst brisk breezes of the Pacific
Northwest: nothing can be further from the broiling mid-day sun
of Southeast Asia.
Two Thanksgivings ago,
I visited an Air National Guard friend of mine who just happens
to be a highly ranked manager in the Boeing organization. Boeing
runs a nice little museum at Boeing Field just south of Seattle
called The Museum of Flight.
My friend also sits
on the board of the museum. Like any other museum, they have business
to conduct, and travel to do. "Local" travel comes in
the form of the museum's administrative aircraft, a restored O-2A
aircraft. To get the story off to a quick start; I got myself
aircraft is hangared at Paine Field, in Everett, WA which was
a very convenient location. Convenient, since my old Air National
Guard Unit is right down the street, and it was a good place for
us to meet.
my son was at the time a Boeing employee, right down the block
from the Guard unit. He was impressed as he entered the building,
and someone announced over the loudspeaker, "Col. Flak, you
have a visitor." Shortly thereafter my friend arrived, and
we departed for the restoration facility that the O-2A calls home.
The people who work at this facility are extremely proud of the
work they do, and I didn't need to be with a senior manager to
get the royal treatment. I got to look at, touch, and sit in many
of the aircraft on which they were working on.
I could have spent
hours, but the sun makes its way to beneath the horizon early
at that latitude at that time of year.
I felt a pang of nostalgia
as I approached the aircraft. It was like going to a high school
reunion and seeing your old girlfriend there, and unaccountably,
she's exactly as lovely as you remembered her being. Only I had
gotten older, and she hadn't. She still looked as good as she
did decades ago while still in her prime.
As I got in the right
seat I noticed one small box that looked a little strange. Everything
else looked exactly like the last O-2A I had gotten out of nearly
30 years before. It was a perfect restoration. We taxied out and
took off over the fjords of Puget Sound. Several minutes after
takeoff, I heard, "Your Aircraft" over the headset.
Instinctively I shook
the yoke and announced, "Roger, I have the aircraft."
It felt a little strange at first. This was the first time I had
an airplane of any kind in my hands since 1982, but it soon came
back to me. I could feel my hands meet with the yoke. My senses
gradually extended through the yoke and out to the flight control
Within minutes I was
no longer manipulating the controls. If I wanted to lift a wing
I did so merely by thinking about it, and it happened with as
much conscious thought as raising my own arm. The symbiosis had
My son was unaware
that I was flying until the pilot turned to talk to him. He was
I enjoyed wheeling
and soaring until the pilot again took control of the aircraft.
I felt some remorse at my loss and disengaged my body from the
aircraft and reverted back to being a mere passenger. The pilot
did make it up to me by some low level flying over the waterways
(and below the level of the surrounding terrain).
I got the aircraft
again for the landing. It wasn't the greatest landing I ever made.
We taxied back in,
and said our good byes.
My son was still impressed,
and that should have been enough for me. It's not every day a
dad can still impress his adult son.
But I got a lot more
out of it than that. For 45 minutes, on that bleak November evening,
I was 24 years old again.