Ron and Don
Two pilots sharing
LAURAN PAINE JR., EAA 582274
From my open hangar door I could see them com- ing, two of them, gray hair reflecting in the sun. They were just ambling, pointing at and talking
about the various airplanes on the ramp. As they got
closer I thought to myself, “Hey, I think I know those
guys.” And, sure enough, I did, from my previous airline
life—Ron and Don.
Airline flying is what they do, but
grassroots aviation is what they love.
Ron was seniority No. 1 when I left the airline. Don
was below me in seniority. They had flown to my airport
in Don’s Stinson. It was a guys’ day out, just flying wherever they felt like going.
Couple things I remember about Ron: he was an excellent instrument pilot, one of those guys who has a very
nice touch on the gauges. No herkin’ or jerkin’ on the
controls; just light pressure here and there, keeping the
needles rock steady. And he seemed to do it so effortlessly. It was a beautiful thing to watch, as I did one day,
giving him a checkride in the simulator.
And Don, he’s just an airplane guy through and
through. An excellent pilot himself, he has owned the
Stinson a long time, and he’s building a Pietenpol. You
couldn’t have guessed by looking at them that these guys
were senior-level airline pilots. Airline flying is what they
do, but grassroots aviation is what they love.
After I retired, I’d heard Ron had had some health
problems: skin cancer, to be exact. I didn’t give it a lot
of thought; in my novice medical mind, I thought skin
cancer was one of the more treatable ones, which it is, if
detected early. But there is a lot more to the story, as I
learned while they visited my hangar.
Ron had a mole. He’d had it a long time. But then
another mole grew within that mole. Ron had it checked,
and it was diagnosed…malignant. Treatments began. Ron
lost his medical. He was “off the line” at the airline for 26
months. Then he worked his way back, jumping through
all the hoops to recurrency: new medical, aircraft requalification, all that stuff. Ron’s recovery led to a realization.
When he got to the end of the runway with a load of
passengers and pushed the throttles up, “This is what I
was meant to do,” he said.
Ron’s time back on the line lasted five months. Then
three spots showed up on his left lung during an X-ray
and had to be removed. Now there are three new ones on
his right lung. He is on what he calls “close watch.” His
medical is gone again.
Ron has a J- 3. “First time in my life, in 40 years of flying, that I can’t just walk up to an airplane and fly it,” he
says. “I have to have someone go with me!” It just doesn’t
seem right, any way he looks at it. So, today Ron was flying with Don, in his Stinson. Don invited Ron along—a
pilot sharing aviation with another pilot.
“First time in my life, in 40 years of
flying, that I can’t just walk up to an
airplane and fly it,” he says.
More than anything I’ve told you about Ron so far,
know this: Ron is a fighter. He came back once; he’ll
come back again. And, yeah, after watching him fly, it’s
clear Ron is “meant to do this.” So, fly again, he will.
That’s my prediction.
Here’s something I take from all this: it validates my
love of flying. Every time I fly these days…I give thanks.