Five years ago today I wrote a story about a single hour that had passed the day before at our airport. Most hours go by in your life with little or no memory, others stay with you vividly. I would remember this hour well, even if I had not written it down in the story.
It was widely read at the time. I initially wrote it on Mark Langford’s discussion list, just as a set of notes in the middle of a long night of insomnia, but it was eventually circulated in email and printed in a magazine. It has an element in it that moves some aviators. At places like Oshkosh people will mention it to me, even years later. People ask sometimes if the characters in the story were ‘real’. I tell them they were not characters, they are people. I share stories, but I don’t write fiction. When you are immersed in aviation, you don’t need to, just recording observations on reality is enough.
Today, 5 years later, a handful of photos of the people from the story. I consider myself lucky to know them. I am 51 now, and have spent 26 years in aviation, literally half my life. It is enough experience to say that the humans you meet at airports can be a lot more alive than the people you meet on the street.
All my life I have been plagued by the feeling that time passes too quickly. Although we have done a lot in the last four years, it isn’t enough, and the thought that the hours and days got away bothers me. Yet, one hour, five years ago, will never slip from my grasp. I get to keep it, and herein lies the secret of my happiness: fill the hours with quality and they will not get away. I can not remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember that the tug boat captains shirt was blue and he waved a white hat as we passed 100 feet above the Tennessee river in our Pietenpol on the way to Oshkosh 2000.
The full story “Friday night” is reprinted below. It’s subject is somber on the surface , but the story in it really isn’t. It is just about being alive and how you can really feel it some hours more than others. -ww
Above, Dan Weseman and Dave Dollarhide at Sun n Fun 2013. They are both in the story “Friday Night.” Dave is fairly well known in Naval Aviation circles because of a short film clip of a young pilot escaping from an A-4 in the USS Forrestal inferno. In one of those stories that only happens in aviation, Dave is now flying one of the very few remaining airworthy A-4′s… 45 years later.
Above is Dave’s RV-4. I shot this photo from the RV-7 of Pat Lee, another person in “Friday Night” when we departed St. Augustine airport. Off our other wing was the RV-4 of Bob Woolley (who is now building Panther #2). In the story he is “Bob from the north end.”
The buildings in the photo are Northrup-Grumman; the road is U.S. 1. St. Augustine is on the coast, about 20 miles east of our grass airstrip.
Above, Dan Weseman flying “The Wicked Cleanex” in the foreground. This is the aircraft that Dan is flying in the story. Off his wing is Chris Smith in “The Son of Cleanex.” The location is a bend in the St John’s river a few miles from our airstrip. The site of the Glassair accident was on the far bank of the river, visible in the upper right as a peninsula. This photo was taken in 2007, a year before the accident.