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June 2019

Updating my logbook last week, I noticed that my SEL plus MEL didn’t equal my total time and day time plus night time didn’t exactly equal my total time either. I was off by more than a few tenths. The choices seemed to be either go back through three logbooks and check all the math or join the 21st Century and let a spreadsheet do the math for me. Thus began the latest project. Opening a Google Sheet I entered the categories from the logbook and started with entry number one: July 22, 1975. A 1.1 in a Cessna 150 with Charles Maris at Antigo, Wisconsin. The act of examining the logbook and entering the names, dates, times, and places brought out memories I thought were long lost.

The summer day, the heat, the bugs, the relaxed attitude of my instructor compared with my excitement and confusion . . . It is a more intense exercise than I would have thought. Flight after flight: some not remembered, others vividly. The first cross country and seeing Rhinelander after 20 minutes instead of 90 in a car, the town from the air, the smell of the green of Wisconsin in the summer, hitting a June bug at 2000’ . . . All memories I hadn’t revisited in 35 years.

Then I saw the notes and signatures of instructors and remembered the lessons that they imparted, some purposely, others just as comments that have stuck anyway and shape how I fly today.

Bob Eskridge, an 8000 hour bush pilot from Alaska and later instructor emeritus at Bremerton said, “You’ve got to be at some altitude . . . Why not the right one?” A simple statement meant to get me on altitude in the pattern but it has popped up and reminded me on every flight since. Gary Don Graves who used to teach at Apex, when we got to the end of the taxiway and were about to take off said, “Remember, today could be the day.” It could? I thought. “What day?” “The day your engine quits at 200 feet. What are you going to do? You won’t have 10 seconds to think about it. You’d better have a plan.” And now, every flight, I do. I’m working on digitizing 20 or 30 flights at a time.

It will take a couple of months but it’s not unpleasant or tedious. It reminds me of mentors and friends both here and passed away, amazing experiences, critical lessons, life changing trips, and just exactly why we pursue this wonderful pastime.

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