I was ferrying a 115HP Cessna 140 from Denver to Tailwheel Town at Sisters, Oregon. I’d spent the night in Burley, Idaho and was halfway there. But, as “TT2” and I climbed up out of Burley, I had my face fixed for breakfast. I knew where I wanted to go. There’s a great little airport café at Caldwell, Idaho. Maybe I’m like a pigeon… I instinctively home to where I lived for a while during my somewhat shortened college career at the C of I. So, as I slipped by Boise, I yakked with Big Sky Approach, told her I was heading for Caldwell and was well-handled by the controller.
She gave me the traffic ahead at Nampa and Caldwell and turned me loose. I got to Caldwell at the same time as a Christen Eagle, who had been out practicing acro. He shot a puff of smoke at me in order for me to see the little biplane. I landed right behind him and taxied to the pumps which are right by the café. I fueled and parked, then scampered, drooling, into the café.
While I was in the café, I witnessed an interesting scene outside. An older man was talking to a woman and another man, as well as a little kid with them. The older guy was obviously demonstrating the control surfaces of the 152 they were standing by. It didn’t take long for me to make an assumption. It was almost better to be watching through the café window and being unable to hear any of the
dialogue. It was like watching a silent movie. But I felt like I knew exactly what was being said. The scene I was witnessing was one that takes place at lots of airports every year. The older guy was a flight instructor. His gestures were universal. Almost like that bad cartoon poster I see in airport restrooms with the old aviator gesturing with his hands. I figured that the woman was a student and the man and kid were her husband and child. All the indicators pointed at this scene as being her very first flying lesson. At least that’s what I assumed as I watched in silence through the café window and enjoyed the breakfast special: chicken-fried steak and eggs. Lots of time went by and lots of yakking, then the woman and the instructor got in the 152 and taxied off. I paid my bill and wandered outside. But I couldn’t help myself. The man and kid were at an outside table. I walked over and introduced myself as “sort of an aviation writer”. He answered my questions. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut from time to time. Sure enough, it was her very first flying lesson. “She’s always wanted to do this,” her husband told me.
I hope it works out. I hope the instructor is a good one. I hope he doesn’t chuckle at her attempt to steer the airplane on the ground with the control yoke. When that instinct is crushed, they’ll fail to use it later to pick a wing up while landing or taking off. I hope he won’t tell her that to coordinate her turns, she needs to “step on the ball” of the turn coordinator. Unfortunately, about 100% of instructors do tell them that and thereby prevent them from learning to coordinate their turns by the feel of their butts. But even if he makes all those usual mistakes, I hope that he’s otherwise good and that he makes sure she has a great time and learns in that very first lesson how much fun can be had during this winged life. I wonder if he realizes that right there, during that very first flight, he has the power to either start a pilot or squelch the urge to fly. I only watched him through the café window… but something tells me he’ll do well.
I wandered to the tiedowns, untied the 140, added some more oil and hauled ass for Tailwheel Town.