Editor’s Briefing: A Passion That’s Not Aviation

Editor’s Briefing: A Passion That’s Not Aviation

Editor’s Briefing: A Passion That’s Not Aviation

If you are like 99 percent of aviation families I know, not everyone in your family embraces aviation the way you do. You may eat, sleep and breathe flying and if you’re lucky, some in your clan may join in your obsession. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by family members who are pilots: my mother (THE aviation matriarch of our familial tree), father, husband, father-in-law and eldest daughter.
The one exception to this lovefest is the youngest of our two daughters, Erin. This sweet, talented young woman has many interests and passions, but aviation isn’t one of them. Certainly, she loves to travel and has been flying in GA airplanes since she can remember. Spring break trips to the Caribbean, vacations in the mountains, visits to Grandma’s, transportation to camp…most of these voyages were made possible thanks to general aviation. So, while she prefers taking one of our airplanes versus suffering through the TSA/airline gauntlet, she has no desire to assume the left seat. During the holidays (and countless other times, too), she suffers through long, boring discussions about airplanes, avionics and “there I was” flying stories. And she does it mostly without complaint.
There is one type of flying with which Erin has an anomalous obsession. Since she was seven, she has wanted to skydive. It was the thing she begged for at every birthday and Christmas. Much to her father Tim’s relief, the law states you must be the age of consent – 18 years – to skydive in the United States. The countdown began 11 years ago to her 18th birthday. Her sister and I readily agreed that we would go with her when the time came. Quite adamantly, Tim saw absolutely no reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, unless it was on fire. He said, “I will happily stay on the ground and cheer you on.”
Finally, Erin turned 18, and the day of her long-awaited jump arrived. It would be tandem, with experienced skydiving instructors strapped to our backs. As we signed the waivers and prepared to begin the ground training, I noticed Tim pacing back and forth. Thinking he was nervous about our impending jump, I stepped over to reassure him.
“That’s not it at all – okay maybe a little bit – but I can’t be the wimp who’s sitting on the ground while all three of his girls leap out of an airplane.” With that, he threw down his credit card and began furiously filling out forms.
Soon, we were piling into a beat-up King Air and barreling down the tiny airstrip. Erin was beaming, high-fiving everyone and mugging for the GoPro. On our way up to 13,000 feet I looked back at Tim, his face ashen but doing his best to be a team player. Once at altitude, we lined up for our exit: Abby followed by Erin, then me and lastly Tim. Pair by pair, we launched. Tim stood helplessly watching his entire family fling themselves out of the doorway, hurtling toward the ground at a terminal velocity of over a 100 kts. He later admitted he felt a bit queasy.
The experience was everything that Erin dreamed it would be, from the freefall, the chute pull, the serene ride under canopy and finally the soft landing back on terra firma. She was immediately ready to go again. Tim said once was enough for him.
I am glad we could share in this magical experience with Erin, something that she had long dreamed and patiently waited to do. Flying will never stir her soul the way it does for the rest of us, and that’s perfectly fine. Just as my mother fed my passion for flight, we will continue to support and encourage Erin’s passions, even if it means feeling a bit queasy at times.
Over Thanksgiving dinner, Erin commented that she can’t wait to skydive again. “Who’s with me?” she asked. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, my mother – Erin’s grandmother who turns 75 next year – thoughtfully said, “That’s something I’ve always wanted to try – I’ll go!”
Happy holidays and best wishes
for a prosperous 2018!

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