Another Father’s Day has come and gone. On one hand it was a reminder of the void left by my father’s passing and on the other, the hope and promise in my son’s eyes.
My father flew everything from biplanes and fighter jets to airliners and aerial ambulances. Yet by far his greatest legacy was the passion for flight that he instilled in so many and his endless dedication to trying to make the next flight better than the last. Despite 23,000 hours and more than 100 aircraft types inked into his log book, the next flight was always the most important. And at its conclusion he would always pause to reflect upon what that flight had taught him and how he could apply that knowledge next time.
There was never any sense of arrogance or complacency as his respect for the skies and his humble place among the clouds would never permit such foolhardiness. He was a quiet man who flew more than 200 combat missions but was filled with dread under the threat of public speaking. My father always felt privileged to fly. Raised during times of drought and the Great Depression, he appreciated the gift of flight as it was a childhood dream that he could never perceive as becoming a reality.
When he died, the stories that flowed in from his many students were overwhelming. Future Boeing 747 Captains spoke of his endless patience and ‘Top Guns’ in the making related tales of his after-hours briefings for struggling young ‘bog rats’. He always recognised effort in a young pilot’s journey and rewarded it with his time – I know this first hand. To me he was a remarkable pilot of immense ability and experience, but he would deflect any such praise with comments such as, “I was a very average pilot that just kept working at it.”
Now as a father, I see my son peering through the airport fence and craning his neck searching the sky at the hint of an aircraft. As his passion for flight stirs, what should I say to him? What lessons should I pass on down the line? I should not dwell on such questions for the answer lies in my own log book and the words that my father passed down to me.
Dad, when it comes to aviation, on only one count can I find you to be wrong – to me, you WERE the best and we miss you every day.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.