The Rewards of Flight

Two-year-old Jedidiah Newhart was tucked securely into his car seat in the right rear passenger area of a 14-year-old Cessna 182. Beside him, his Dad fidgeted with a bulky Dave Clark head set. "Go Daddy! Go Daddy!" the boys little voice blended with the trembling hum of the idling engine. Meanwhile, the pilot in front of him adjusted the instrument panel lights and repeatedly aimed a small red flashlight at a checklist on his leg. The pilot and the boy's Dad had decided to sneak out ahead of a late winter storm forecast to sweep into the area by dawn the next day, bringing thunderstorms, low ceilings and dangerous icing in the clouds. Their decision meant a night flight all the way. It meant departing on a four hundred-mile trip only a few hours after Jedidiah had awakened from anesthesia for surgery. His doctor said it would be OK this time. Oddly, by an uncanny coincidence, the pilot was also a pediatric anesthesiologist. Several dozen "Go Daddys" later, the trio lifted gracefully off runway 7 into the clear black night and climbed away from Cincinnati. Jedidiah drifted off to sleep even before they leveled off at seven thousand feet. Gorgeous subtle light shows surrounded them in the smooth air. Sidereal splendor above, Columbus, Canton, Youngstown and Pittsburgh below. Then a black intermission between an overcast cloud deck and the sparsely populated hills of northern Pennsylvania and western New York. By 11:00 p.m. the three travelers floated over the beautiful colored approach lights and felt the tires kiss the surface of runway 6, Elmira, New York. Home for two. Jedidiah seemed to recognize someone in a red jacket, standing on the ramp and bouncing in place, fighting to hold herself back from the plane until the propeller stopped. "Mommy," he pointed a tiny index finger. The pilot opened the door as the boy's bubbling mother approached. Jedidiah looked at his mother, then aimed a pointer finger at the pilot. "Go," he introduced their hero.

by Greg Gordon, Pilot

Greg Gordon MD, CFII