And the urge never waned.
As a child, I always wanted to be an airline pilot. I made model airplanes of all types and flew some rubber band powered ones. I would have liked to have a small gas engine powered one but could not afford it. I once won first prize at a middle-school arts fair with a dual wing model I built. However, my mother did in no way want her only son to spend his life flying. She firmly believed that if God had wanted man to fly, He would have given us wings.
The parental influence pushed me to the next best thing, so I studied mechanical engineering at Purdue. It was agreed that there would always be a need for engineers who knew how to design and manufacture things. After a mandatory three year stint required by my Navy scholarship, I married and settled down to a “proper job.” I first was a research engineer at Standard Oil of Indiana and then moved on to the engineering department of Dole Valve company. As Dole was acquired by Eaton Corp., the scope of advancement broadened.
In1971 I was transferred to Forrest City AR as Engineer Manager of the Hoisting Equipment Division.
This was the time that the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was published. A book about flying- of course it intrigued me! Basically, this was a morality story about a seagull who was committed to being the best he could be- especially in the art of flying. The wonderful descriptions of soaring over the landscape and drinking in the beauty of the world rekindled the spark of flying for me.
However, the real message of the book was that you should never give up on trying to achieve the best in whatever you were doing. The engineers at the Forrest City plant were- I thought- a bit too relaxed in the “Southern” environment. Activities were too much gauged by what was good enough, not by what could be achieved. So I bought a copy of “Johathan Living Seagull” for each of them and recommended they ponder the message.
I’m now supposing what occurred: An employee stopped by the desk of Pep one of the manufacturing engineers and saw the book. “Pep” he noted “ I didn’t know you were interested in flying.” “I’m not but this crazy new engineering manager thought we engineers should study this book.” “Humm.”
That evening as I was engrossed in my office the noted employee popped in my doorway and commented “I gather from Pep that you are interested in flying.” Every once in your lifetime something unleashes a storm of thoughts in your brain and you have little control as they gush out. I poured out my childhood flying dreams, the building of model airplanes, the dreams of taking flying lessons, and the practical suppression of all the thoughts. Then I added, “Now that I have a little more time in this job, I may just try following my dreams!
“Well” he said, “I’m a licensed flight instructor; should we go out tonight and start?”
On August 11, 1972, I was issued my Private Pilot license. I have a total 664 hours of “Pilot in command.” My most memorable flight was piloting a Piper Cherokee to Fairbanks, Alaska and back.
For my 90th birthday I took a lesson and the instructor said with a few bits of brush-up he would endorse me as ready to fly again.
Contributed by: Ed Koskie
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