SI Vault
Joan Dickinson
August 25, 1958
A young housewife who went on a learn-to-fly vacation describes the excitement, the trials and errors, and the deep satisfaction of taking to the air
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August 25, 1958

The Sky Was Mine

A young housewife who went on a learn-to-fly vacation describes the excitement, the trials and errors, and the deep satisfaction of taking to the air

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"Take a good look around," he suggested.

I already was, but it didn't help any because it was the first time I had surveyed the island since my sightseeing "familiarization flight" tour, and practically the entire island is surrounded by beach. Finally, with some prompting from Steve, I found my way back to the county field and started all over, following that reliable highway home and developing a strong interest in learning how to use my compass. "Sure scares me," Steve said when we landed, but in the pilots' lounge he told the others he was getting ready to jump out on me.

They wouldn't dare send me up alone, I thought. Look at what I might do up there by myself!

But they did, and not many days later, either. I had had one good lesson, when Steve climbed in beside me and said he would ride around with me once and then let me take it away. "Put your radio on," he said. "I'll stay inside and you can ask all the questions you want." I was ready to go and had none of the expected jitters, but that day turned out to be like waiting for the imminent arrival of the stork, because I never did get up alone. The wind blew hard, and he flew with me onto every runway at Katama and also the county field, never satisfied that conditions were right. I waited two hours in the morning for the wind to swing around, then two hours after lunch, and finally gave it up and went to a clambake.

In the early evening Steve called me at the Harborside to see if I wanted to go out to the field with him while he took the barriers off the new runway to try it out. He had kept it closed until the grass got a start and it was dried out enough. We landed on it twice, at the end and in the middle. "Seem skiddy?" he asked. I shrugged, not sure how skiddy was skiddy. "Well, see that pile of dirt at the side of the runway?" He opened the door, and I thought he was going to put up markers on it and have me turn the plane around and come back for him. "I'll be sitting right on top of it," he said, "take your time, watch your wind, add power when you need it."

"You mean you're leaving me?" I was astounded. All day I had been ready. Now, testing a new runway, the wind blowing harder than ever—about 25 knots, he had said—it was the furthest thing from my mind. He had asked me before how many drinks I had at the clambake, and I thought at the time that he was carrying this close relationship of instructor-student a little too far. Now I knew he had been planning this all along.

"You're all right," he said, backing off from the plane. "You've been flying in plenty of turbulence, you won't let this little bit of wind bother you. Just take your time and watch that rough spot over the farm."

"Now wait a minute.... There's something I wanted to ask you before...." But I couldn't think what it was.

"Watch me as you come in. If I wave you off, give it full power right away and go around again. Don't be afraid to use that throttle."

"What's waving off?"

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