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Goldwings around, so the whole ultra-
light idea seemed to be running through
my fingers like sand. But wait, I had seen
them flying in the commercial. I asked if
anybody was actually flying these air-
craft. I don’t remember our exact words,
but the conversation went a lot like this:
Him: Oh, sure, we fly them all the
Me: Oh, okay. But where?
Him: Everywhere! All over!
Me: I see. (Pausing to think of how to
make myself clear.) But where exactly do
you fly them?
Him: (Grinning like crazy) Oh, parks,
open areas, fields, everywhere.
Me: But, see, what I’m getting at is, is
there a particular place I could go to
watch them fly?
Him: You name it, we fly there!
Me: (Perplexed) So, what you’re saying is, that if I go stand out in any open
field this coming Saturday morning, any
field at all, I’ll see you guys flying?
Him: (Worried) Which field did you
have in mind?
Within two weeks, I had
soloed one of the Eagle
trainers, and within a
month, my own copy had
arrived from the factory,
and I was flying it as often
as I could find a place to
set up and launch.
Deciding that I must have been
caught in an eddy in the space-time con-
tinuum, the one that also has Abbot and
Costello perpetually doing the “Who’s
on first?” routine, I tried a whole new
approach. I asked him whether, if I
went out to my car and got a map and
brought it in and gave it to him, he
would be able to put his finger on a spot
where people would be flying ultra-
lights this coming weekend. He looked
uncomfortable, but dug around behind
the counter and produced a leaflet
announcing a big ultralight fly-in, with
a map and directions and everything.
Great! I thanked him and took it home
before reading it closely.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…
That night, I had pencil and paper at
hand during the Rockford rerun and carefully wrote down the phone number in
the commercial. I called the next morning. Come on out, they said, we’re flying
Their shop was in an industrial park,
and when I arrived, there was an actual
ultralight out front on a bare patch of
ground, its engine ticking over. It was an
American Aerolights Eagle, a popular
design of the time. The pilot held his feet
on the ground for brakes, ran the tiny
engine to full throttle, then lifted his feet,
went like a banshee down the makeshift
runway, and was airborne and climbing
away in less than 200 feet. Inside, in a
showroom, were static displays of
another Eagle and the newest thing
under the sun at the time, a Quicksilver
MX that had just arrived.
Within two weeks, I had soloed one of
the Eagle trainers, and within a month,
my own copy had arrived from the factory, and I was flying it as often as I could
find a place to set up and launch.
FOLLOW THE FAIRLY STRAIGHT LINE
I’ve often remembered that first blundering attempt to get into flying,
probably because it says a lot about just
how crazy those early days were (and
maybe because it shows just how starry-eyed one would-be aviator can be,
although I wasn’t quite as plump or as
beaky as the fledgling in my drawing). A