Night Flight

February 6, 1999

This day belonged to the wind. Warm air from deep in the Gulf swept across the plains and arrived here in the Midwest where it ruled from moment to moment. All day long it was persistent, bending trees, picking up papers and leaves and tossed them about. Persistent yes, but it was also friendly in its warmth.

Finally though, the night sky is quiet and still.

The willows across the back of the yard hang without a shred of movement. Nothing around me gives the slightest hint of our companion from the South.

Gazing up into the night sky I slowly slide down into the tub full of hot, turn off the jets and listen to the night sounds. Slowly my night vision improves and I can make out the faint shape of the Milky Way as it angles across my field of view. The wind has gone. In its place there is a stillness that seems to defy time itself.

Across the sky, slight puffs of milky clouds drift ever so slowly and hide an occasional star. The clouds are dense in the middle, and toward their edges their translucence allows the blackness of the night sky through.

Suddenly I hear a roar and in an instant I know the noise, as an aircraft is poised for takeoff less than 4 miles away. Mentally I jump into the pilots seat, line up the nose of the airplane with runway 27 and set the directional gyro. Looking down the runway, the lights fade in perspective as they turn to red in the distance. At night you can truly see the perspective of a long runway narrowing to a sliver of lights over a mile away.

The cockpit is lit in a red glow, the instruments backlit with a blue green light. I run my hand over rows of red lights, orange lights, and push in the green gear down button. I feel my feet on the rudder pedals and my right hand on the throttle. My left hand feels the finger grips of the yoke as I scan the panel.

All engine instruments are in the green and I advance the throttle slowly and smoothly. The roar of the engine drowns out all thought of conversation as the airplane slowly begins to move. The runway lights quickly come into focus and begin to blur on the edges of sight. As speed increases the dashed centerline begins to merge into a stream of silver white light. A glance at the airspeed indicator shows it in the green, and I begin to apply back-pressure on the yoke. Quickly the wheels leave the earth.

Flight… it never ceases to amaze me. That moment when gravity's hands are torn off the wheels and we are set free, is a moment of time when life changes, when I have dimensional freedom, when I can soar above the fixations of earth and move about the sky.

It is however, movement at a price, and constrained by the amount of power under the long cowl in front of me. The noise is the price as the unmuffled roar of my engine penetrates and permeiates the the night sky. Wing tip strobe lights flash out for all to see.

At night my emotions are conflicted, for I feel like an intruder as all that noise invades the quiet air.

Tonight though, I am not the intruder, for I flew for a moment while sitting in a hot tub.

As the sound of the airplane dimmed in the distance, I returned to watching the clouds drift across the night sky.