A Poem for Old Tail Dragger Pilots

September 2004

Wendell Davenport originally owned Fly Baby N41017.  He lives in Hawaii, but commutes back to the mainland several times a year and flies his plane a lot.  In 2002, for instance, he flew from Los Angeles to Seattle for the 40th anniversary Fly Baby get-together at Arlington.  In 2003, he flew his plane from Los Angeles...to Kitty Hawk.  He didn't do it for the publicity, or anything...it's just something he wanted to do for the first-flight anniversary.  He eventually sold the plane, but missed Fly Babies so much he bought another one, a year later.

In late 2004, he sent me the following poem, inspired by his experiences in his pretty little silver-and-yellow bird.  Anyone who has flown a Fly Baby will understand.....

by Wendell Davenport

She sits comfortably
on her gear
this open cockpit tail dragger
bathed in bright sunlight
as I approach her on this
early October morning.
Should I trust these old bones
to this frail visage
of wood and fabric?
I know that I will!

The joyous ritual begins
climbing on the wing,
one leg into the cockpit
then letting down on
the soft cushion, legs
extended and finding
the rudder pedals.
Then of whiff of that
indefinable smell
of wood and doped fabric.
Is there a smell
more enticing?
To me there is not!

A tightening of seat belt
and shoulder harness --
the call "Contact"! --
the flip of a switch
and this yellow and silver
construct of fragile symmetry
springs to life!
The engine is at first
hesitant but now confident
with its low throbbing idle.
Can one imagine a more
fitting prelude to adventure?
I cannot!

Clearing for unlikely traffic
at the end of the grass strip --
the turning into the wind --
the slow advance of throttle
and the engine asserts
its bold authority
as the tail lifts
and we accelerate down
a blur of green.
Then, sooner than anticipated,
we are free and flying!
How can one explain
such a miracle?
God knows I cannot!

Effortlessly we climb
into a cerulean sky
gently banking close around
a cloud's changing irregularity
playing tag with its neighbors
and then as if by some
divine acquiescence
pilot and machine become
part of the natural order
of flying things
Can any of life's experiences
surpass this?
To me they cannot!

Finally, on our return
looking for and spotting
that small rectangle
of green half hidden
among the trees -- a steep
bank -- a leveling off
and now crossed controls
bring us slipping
just above the treetops
Holder her off -- then
stick full back and the
lift that has sustained us
fades and we gently
touch down on the tufted green
rolling to a stop.
Is this not the glory
of life defined?
To this old tail dragger pilot
it is!

Comments? Contact Ron Wanttaja .

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