Among the pleasures of piloting is delivering people we care about to places they want to go. For me, that includes chauffeuring Jean to distant tennis events; she loves boasting of her “personal pilot.” My latest opportunity arose when Jean’s team qualified for regional competition in Albuquerque.
Play was scheduled for a long weekend, meaning most team members would drive five hours from Flagstaff Thursday night after work, and then hurry home after Sunday’s final match in hopes of a brief pre-workweek rest. Jean, however, had long ago tagged my calendar for this possibility. Her teammates Sally Lynch and Molly Palley asked to join us.
“All four of us are small so weight shouldn’t be a problem – right Greg?” asked Jean. She knew that warm spring temperatures at Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation would raise density altitude concerns. Yet all of us were indeed well below average adult weight.
“Could your driving teammates take some of your luggage?” I asked after preliminary calculations. “If so, careful fuel planning and an early-morning takeoff should do the trick.” Then there was the question of Molly’s comfort. Sally had once taken flying lessons, but Molly was new to light airplanes. “Believe me, Molly can take anything,” said Jean, laughing.
Next up was to collect everyone’s actual weights so I could precisely set fuel and luggage limits. Sally got the first call. After demanding secrecy she demurely shared her weight – and then surprised me with a question.
“Honestly, Greg, can you assure me the plane can safely carry four of us, fuel, and gear on a trip of that distance?” Impressed, I described my preliminary calculations. Then she told me a story…
Continue reading Greg’s September Flying Carpet column, “Game Plan,” here. (Please allow time for the article to load.)
Photo: Fresh off the tennis court, Jean and Molly convene at Albuquerque’s Double Eagle Airport for the flight home. See more photos here.
©2011 Gregory N. Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!