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Flight of Rediscovery

by Sam Buchanan

My friend and I sat silently in the J-3 cabin listening to the warm engine tick softly as it cooled. Since I was in
the rear seat, he couldn't see my grin as I imagined the thoughts that he no doubt was having.

Just a few minutes earlier, we had followed the meandering course of the Elk River as it wandered through its
fertile valley along the Alabama/Tennessee state line. In the low, warm evening light, we could easily trace the
evidence of the deer population's migration across the freshly plowed and still wet cotton fields.
From 200' AGL, the shoals of the river and the aroma of the adjacent hills was evident; We were, however,
high enough that we could float above an isolated grazing herd of cows without warranting so much as a
passing glance. As the sun cast it's final slanting golden rays upon another approaching summer evening,
the Cub's wheels had softly kissed the sod runway in what was one of my better three-point landings yet.
What a way to cap a memorable flight and to refresh a quality friendship with a fellow pilot.

It was a flight of discovery. We both experienced flight as it was meant to radio clearances,
no restricted airspace.....just pilots in sync with the atmosphere and their flying machine.
Even though I had tasted such freedom before during late evening flights in my experimental light aircraft,
it was my friend's first such experience. He had spent the last five years pursuing his private ticket
and instrument rating while flying a progression of increasingly complex aircraft. He was on his way up the
conventional aviation ladder.

But he had forgotten why he wanted to fly in the first place.

It was a flight of rediscovery. "Sam", he remarked after a few moments of silence, "I have been flying for
five years but this was the first time I have really flown." There was no need for me to answer, for he knew
that I understood perfectly what he was saying. We had just landed a time machine, a machine that had
transported us both back to 1940, and the rural terrain we had just traversed contained no clues to
interfere with our time warp. The Continental engine sounded just as it had to thousands of fresh pilots in
the early 1940's who would soon be at the throttle of booming radial monsters as they made their way
to Germany. The adverse yaw had kept our feet honest, the slip ball tattling on our occasional
transgression, the same way that it had contributed to the predictable shouting from the instructor
of the novice pilots in 1940.

It was a flight of renewal. We both realized that what we wanted more than anything else at that moment
was for one of us to walk to the front of the Cub, and with a smart pull of the prop, send us on our way
to continue the flight. But the sun had set, and we both had to leave the flight as it was, one of those rare
entries in our logbook where mere written notes could not convey the feelings and emotions felt. The
flight did, however, leave us both determined that we would return to the Cub soon on yet another late
summer evening, for the joy of simple unadulterated flight is a thirst that is not readily quenched, and we
were both determined that we would never again take our ability to fly for granted.

I realize that many of you have made this same flight. The craft may be different, the scenery elsewhere,
but the emotions and reason for flying are identical. You also know the tremendously rewarding
experience of introducing a friend to a realm of flight previously unknown, and seeing the sparkle in
their eyes as they "get it". For them it is truly a flight of discovery.

For us, it is a flight of reaffirmation.

Sam Buchanan

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