JUDY: Childhood Dreams

My journey into flight began as a child when I would dream about clouds and flying in them. I would stop at my play to look up into the sky in wonderment whenever a plane flew overhead. Visiting my dad who was a fire-fighter with the Department of National Defence stationed at McCall Field in Calgary was always exciting. I got to see planes up close. Family friends who flew to far-off places, like Hawaii, would be peppered with questions from me...what was it like? What do the clouds look like from up there? What did the pilots look like? Were there any lady pilots? At that time, the answer to my last question was “no” which left me feeling uncomfortable. Why not?

As I entered my pre-teen years, my father tried to get me into Air Cadets but they did not allow girls to enroll. I felt dejected and disappointed but my fascination still held. I wanted to be an airline stewardess but I did not meet the qualifications-too short and visually impaired.

Again...disappointment. My first flight on a DC9 to Edmonton for an interview at the University of Alberta. It was one I shall never forget. It was a thrill that ended all too shortly. After I married, my son came of age to join Air Cadets. I got to live somewhat vicariously through him and when he decided to leave the program, I was disappointed.

Years passed with life changes. I was getting towards the end of a long successful nursing career when I ended up with an emotional breakdown because of job stresses and “losing” my identity in my career.

My husband always endeavored to find ways to help me heal. On Canada Day in 2010 we ventured out for a picnic west of Black Diamond. There is a gliding club there, called Cu-Nim, of which I had taken my son as a cadet to learn to fly gliders. I never took the opportunity to go for a flight. The reason I declined escapes me but this time my husband, who is a commercial pilot, suggested we check it out as we could see gliders taking off and landing. I never tired of listening to him talk about his day and see the pictures and short videos he would take on the flight. Between the two of us, we had enough cash to pay for the introductory flight. I remember walking over to the Lark watching as it's canopy glinted in the sunlight as if it was winking at me. The rudder seemed to beckon to me as it waved ever so slightly in the summer breeze. I was fitted with the parachute and then attempted to climb gracefully into the cockpit but I was more clumsy than graceful. I was helped with fastening the harness and listened to the pilot as to how I needed to position myself and the emergency measures to take if something untoward should happen. Before I knew it, we were off the ground behind the tow plane and after a few moments, the pilot-in-command released and it was quiet. He did circles and loops and I giggled like a school girl. We flew to just below the bases of the clouds and I spotted an eagle in the thermal with us
and a couple of hawks below off the right wing. I had never felt such freedom and pure joy as I did that day. We had to land all too soon. When I exited the cockpit, my husband greeted me and noticed the expression on my face. “You're hooked”, he said with a smile. My face was too small to contain the joy I was trying to express inside of me. At the age of 54 I began to learn to fly. I can't get enough of it.

People notice that my face lights up whenever they engage me in conversation about flying. Flying gliders is a great way to learn and more economically viable than power flying. Power planes just become gliders anyway when their engines fail. There are gliding clubs across Canada (Soaring Association of Canada -www.SAC.ca) that anyone can join. The instruction is free at these clubs.

Also, anyone can learn to fly at any age. Older students do have challenges but as Theresa Whiting, a glider pilot and flight instructor, from Girls with Wings states: “The most important thing they have in common is persistence. It is neither the smartest nor the most gifted that succeed; it is the ones that are too stubborn to give up.”

- Judy