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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Thursday, August 29 2002 

Flying 2

My brother Bob is away from his computer for a week or so, on vacation in Pennsylvania, so I can't discuss flying with him. For that reason, my observations about him may be more products of my imagination than reflections of his motivations or perceptions. But he seems to me the epitome of the WWII-era youngster bitten by the aviation bug. He joined the Air Force just after the war, just after it had been declared another branch of the military separate from the Army or Navy, both of which I gather had their own "air forces" during WWII.

I'm not sure Bob hoped to be an aviator when he joined, though later events suggest he probably did. But he was mainly a fireman in the Air Force and didn't re-up after his initial stint. He spent time in San Antonio, Texas; Antigua in the Caribbean, probably other places I've forgotten (having been perhaps four to six years old at the time) and he mustered out while stationed in Newport News, Va. Ironically, if he wanted to be a pilot, he worked there for a while in a shipyard before coming back to Cambria County to try Bethlehem Steel, driving an Ebensburg-based Pepsi Cola truck, and several other jobs.

He owned a motorcycle for a while but I had no inkling he was longing to fly. He did give me what may have been the most expensive single toy of my childhood, however: a twin-prop model steel airliner that hung from the ceiling of my room for many years.

It wasn't until I was grown, married, and starting a family in California that Bob's serious interest in aviation registered with me. He was living in a Los Angeles suburb at the time, running his own trucking business for a living, married, and settled in middle age, when he enrolled in the Northrup Institute near LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport, as a student in airplane mechanics. Having done nothing academic since graduating from high school, it struck me as strange and, unlike most of the passions of his life, it was something we never discussed.

After graduating from Northrup, Bob surprised me again by buying a business, a steel yard, in a small town about 400 miles north of Los Angeles. What was all that about? It turned out that Bob's plan was to make his own airplane, and in the next couple decades he made two of them (from "kits"). The young man's passion had become the middle-aged man's reality, turning his avocation into his new reality. He retired young, moved back to Indiana (his wife's home area), and then moved into a house adjacent to the landing strip where he was keeping his plane.

A few years later, however, as he was approaching old age, things changed. Friends began dying in small-plane crashes, and he witnessed two of them plunge to the ground to their deaths during an air show at the same airstrip he was living on. He put his brand new and even untested second self-built plane up for sale. The passion was gone.

He and I made a round-the-world tour in 1996, and because Bob was never much of a tourist and never liked big cities, I concluded that he took the trip mainly to fulfill a lifelong desire to fly around the globe. After that he planned a trip alone to Ireland, but because of scheduling problems had to cancel. Since then he says he's lost all interest in air travel for the sake of travel, or flying.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

You know you're from Utah if...

You slept through the night unawakened by a siren

A rodeo is more popular than a rock concert

You can fish, golf, and go skiing all in the same day if you try hard enough

Yellow light means "follow the car in front of you no matter what"

Democrats are like salmon, on the endangered species list

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

If you believe in what you are doing, let nothing hold
you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has
been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.

Dale Carnegie

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