Easter, an aviator on short final.

Builders,

I took the picture below two days ago. The man pictured with me is Chuck Nelson, the person who taught Grace and myself how to fly. Way back then we were small potatoes, and couldn’t afford to insure the mint L-2 he instructed us in, far less monetarily compensate him for the things he taught us. Chuck didn’t care, he was a hard core old school instructor, and if you were there to learn, he was there to teach, and everything else was secondary.

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Over time, was our stock in aviation grew a bit, we never lost sight of Chuck’s initial generosity. For any success I have had in aviation, I can instantly name the person who played a quiet role in facilitating it. If we are speaking of flying, my debt is to Chuck. I have said before that people who do not attempt to repay such acts are worthless. This is one of the few things in life I see no gray area on, nor do I think anyone should get a ribbon for abiding by it, it should be so commonplace that it isn’t worth mentioning.  Perhaps every aviator reading this has their own Chuck, I have just been fortunate that I have had a chance to express my gratitude to him, many people wait to long.

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I have many better pictures of the two of us, but I share this one because it captures his smile, even when his flight is almost over.  Chuck is 85, and his doctor gave him some hard news last week. He is a classic tough guy, he thanked the doctor and headed home.  As a teenage infantryman in Korea, he got a first hand look at human mortality, and 68 years later, no discernible sentimentality has crept in.

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Any man with a life of challenge and adventure behind him, if he is being honest, will have plenty of things to regret. Chuck certainly has his own share, and they are private, and not the subject here.  The focal point here is a lesson that is far more easier to appreciate and integrate into your remaining days.

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Chuck has more than 10,000 hours of pure stick and rudder flying in his logs, and as we sat and spoke of his life, he was very clear that he didn’t regret any hour he had ever spent aloft, nor the years of work he put into earning the title ‘aviator’.  He has had many passions and accomplishments in his life, but only flying has no reservation attached to it. Think about that when you are choosing how to spend the hours of your day.

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Additionally, understand this: While Chucks logs include lots of time in HU-16’s , Beech 18’s T-6’s , P-51s, B-25 and -26 time, and a wide array of heavy radial stuff, he would gladly tell you his three favorite planes ever are SGS 1-26, L-2, and a Pitts S2A. Note they are worth $10, $25 and $50K respectively.  These plane, or a homebuilt of the same value can provide adventure and challenge that an aviator of Chuck’s experience and caliber found richly rewarding.

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Perhaps today is the day you should redouble your own personal efforts to experience more out of aviation, as a full on participant, not a mere spectator. Maybe today is a good day to shed all the things Sterling Hayden called ‘the cancerous discipline of security’, where men refused to take control of their own ship of life and allowed an endless series of consumer distractions to steal the days of life from their grasp.

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Make this decision today, because each of us will have his own ‘short final’ one day, and you deserve to have the same smile as Chuck does above. To have it, you must have done something worthwhile to reflect on. Your life, your choice, make it today, or it will certainly slip away. 

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About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

3 Responses to Easter, an aviator on short final.

  1. danwkeys says:

    This priceless blog post reminds me of my first instructor, Charlie, who flew a couple of J-3 Cubs out of a modified cow pasture in Plant City, FL. We always flew with the side doors open and the intercom was his amazingly loud voice coming from the front seat. He had instructor’s certificate #13 as I recall. No radios and only a magnetic compass. It was enough, as he pointed out. Aircraft and instructor set me back $8/hour – wet. He taught me to fly the airplane, not allowing the airplane to fly me. That’s why I’m still thriving at age 75 after thousands of hours of fun AGL. We need more like Chuck and Charlie. SWEET memories. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. John says:

    For Sure.

  3. Joshua D Rimmer says:

    Anyone who still wants to fly simple stick and rudder planes owes a huge debt of gratitude to men like your friend Chuck.I hope he knows just how many prayers will fly west with him.

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