March 21, 2001

"...My employer does not share my enthusiasm for Commonwealth airplanes and their owners; therefore, it is in my best interests to decline your gracious invitation..." With the click of the mouse, I replied to the E-mailed invitation and laid crepe over yet another dream flight.

There are several dozen Commonwealth owners who are loosely tied together through the internet. It is quite a long list of familiar names, but despite many phone and E-mail conversations, I have only met two of them face to face. One of the members lives near the Lakeland, Florida airport, and is hosting a barbecue for all the members who might attend the Sun 'n Fun Fly- in there next month. Sun 'n Fun is second in stature only to the Summer Oshkosh gathering of airplane enthusiasts, and this barbecue would be a great opportunity to meet folks, see their airplanes, and pick up some helpful tidbits of information.

Let's see. Lakeland is about 1000 miles away as the crow flies. In my plane, the way I fly it, it looks like four 3-hour legs. Twelve hours of flying and another six hours of dawdling at various airports along the way would make two days down and two days back. Four nine- hour days leaves time for short side trips to visit old friends.

A summer barbecue in April, a chance to put faces on familiar names, and a chance to see how some other faces have worn through the years. Need I mention the pleasures of a leisurely flight down the front of the Appalachians, and a return up along the seacoast? Stops in Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, and wherever else I fancy. Sounds like fun; I should plan six days of round trip travel.

But like I said, it won't happen. For all the reasons that most other folks can't just jump up and disappear for a week, I can't either. For all our dreaming, the reality is that there are only a few special trips allowed in a lifetime. I have been a good boy all winter though, staying home and doing what I have been told. I plan to make up for it when the weather warms, and make some longer trips on good weekends.

I like the sounds, sights, and sentiments of sitting in an airplane and floating along. I don't even find a howling headwind on a winter's night to be unpleasant, although if I am going nowhere fast, I prefer it to be in my Commonwealth. Somewhere in my collection I have a picture of a southwest bound flight on a sunny day, with a bowl of leftovers on top of the dashboard, being warmed for lunch by the sun and a draft of engine heat. Outwardly it is an uninteresting picture, but it always kindles the contentment that I feel as I canoe across hills, rivers, farms and forests.

This summer, I will make all the usual trips to Weedsport, Middlesex, Avoca, Great Valley and Mayville, but a 400 mile trip can go past Detroit, Roanoke, or to the Maine coast. Three trips could go to all of those places, each with a sunup departure, a lunchtime visit and a return before dark. On a smaller scale, I would like to revisit the airport where I bought my airplane, see the show at Rhinebeck Aerodrome, and hopefully meet up with several Commonwealth owners at Lock Haven's Piper fly- in. A seven hour trip up Lake George, Lake Champlain, and then down the St Lawrence could provide a breakfast with one friend and lunch with another. The possibilities are endless.

The airport is stilled by a thick layer of snow right now, and there is mud beneath that; It is a slow time. Sports Illustrated takes care of its slow season with a swimsuit edition, while I pass the season with other flights of fancy.

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