Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just got back from the mechanic's shop. Not good news. the new to me car I almost bought is going to cost $836 for a used fuel pump, the muffler is another couple of hundred including labour.

I love mechanical things, my first job out of high school was as an apprentice aircraft engineer. The year I learned to fly was the summer after grade 10, I hadn't really planned it that way, it just kind of came upon me.
Air Cadets offered many courses, called scholarships, in the summer some two weeks, some up to six week, I had my eyes set on the mechanically involved, six week Airframes and Aero engines course. My commanding officer suggested that if I was going to travel to the interviews, a ten hour car ride, that I should apply for some other courses in case I missed out on my first choice and "It will look good for the interviews". Interviews seemed to go well and I awaited for the final night of the year (September to June) to be presented my scholarship. Well, when my name was announced at the squadron parade to march up and receive my scholarship, much to my horror I opened the envelope to find a note and an elastic band, the note congratulated me for being awarded the Air Cadet Glider Pilot Scholarship and the elastic had been attached with the written comment "In case of power failure wind this up". A bit of shock but hey I was only 16 and summer away from home was always fun.
Not too confidently, I set off to become a glider pilot. The previous summer at Cadet Camp I had actually tried out for the swim team (and made it and I don't love swimming) to avoid the roller coaster ride of the gliders being launched by a huge winch, hurtling the glider and occupants nearly straight up 600 feet. I hate roller coasters and this was not my cup of tea.

I was the second last of a class of 10 to go "solo", the marker we seemed to use to judge ourselves as good pilots. I had been through two different instructors and finally the head instructor took me out and I think I got my first decent lesson. I soloed and loved the sky. I would stall the glider and make it point at the ground, turn tight and steep turns, the G-force pinning me to the seat, my face pulled tight and my hands, on the controls, weighing double their normal weight.
I thought little of it when I got home as we lived in a remote community and gliding was not something that could be done there.
My father came to me one day asked if I cared to join him and some others to go to the Air Cadet meeting near where I learned to glide, (the ten hour car ride) and I said "No thanks" . He said too bad because we are leaving on Friday, he knew I would jump at any excuse to miss a day of school and he was right.
There were meetings for the Air Cadet Parents and Executive during the day and that night was to be a "Mess Dinner" requiring special white shirts and bow ties for the Air Cadets and the finest Mess Dress for Officers and adults.

Well, boys being boys, a couple of us got into town during the day obtained a case of beer for after the festivities, the cadets were being billeted in the barracks, the adults in the Officer's quarters on the base.

Just as I was adjusting my bow tie, I received a message to report immediately to the Officer's Mess, a place strictly out of bounds for cadets, my commanding officer wanted to see me alone. The jig was up, I was about to be court martialled for the beer and I had only chipped in a couple of bucks and the older guy had bought it.
I nervously presented myself to the Officers Mess and asked for my CO. I was told to "Wait right there!" by the duty NCO and soon saw my father and the CO coming towards me. I stood a perfect attention expecting a world of grief. My CO, a British veteran, (my dad was a paratrooper during the war), called my last name as he always did, and said "I guess you'll be making a speech tonight, we've got spot for you at the head table and by the way; Congratulations on being the top Air Cadet Glider Pilot in Canada this year."
I sat at the head table and listened intently to every speaker trying to gleen what had to be said as an introduction, I finally decided to go with "Ladies and gentlemen, Officers, cadets and honored guests."

Well as I mentally rehearsed this bit I watched as the table of trophys and plaques seemed to evaporated into smaller and smaller awards, my name wasn't being called and I was saddened by the lack of hardware and relieved as I had no speech or notes or anything other than my introduction entering my stage frightened tiny mind (for you Eve).
Then two older cadets arrived with a crate, really a crate, it was 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 by 1 feet, solid plywood, they unscrewed the lid and took out a trophy that stood almost 2 feet tall. I looked at that and thought wouldn't that be cool if... and then they carefully lifted a miniature stainless steal glider from the crate and attached it to the top of the Trophy.\
My speech including the introduction was short, I said "Ladies and gentlemen, Officers, cadets and honored guests. I'm speechless." That was all I could muster, but the applause was deafening,

Well that's how I got started with flying, meanwhile mechanics has been another true love and I will tell more about my 500 dollar car and 836 dollar fuel pump next blog.
Take care

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