My Aviation Experiences

While working at the university, I earned my pilot’s license at Princeton Airport. It was thrilling to be in control of a machine that gave me a beautiful aerial view of my daily landscape. One day while I was waiting to take-off, my instructor saw me staring in awe at an open cock-pit aircraft called a Breezy. He asked me if I would like to fly in it. After my flight lesson, he was able to get a ride in the strange aircraft. The pilot sat in front with a yoke and small cluster of instruments. I sat behind on a wide bench that had only a single seat belt and no arm rests! I had to wear goggles and I quickly learned why it was called a Breezy. Despite being summer, it was a very chilly ride. Fortunately, it was a short ride but I was more grateful that we didn’t make sharp turns. A few years after I earned my pilot’s license, I took aerobatics lessons to advance my flight skills — and have even more fun flying!

My aerial view of New York City as a pilot
My aerial view of New York City as a pilot

I enjoyed taking friends and family flying. One friend was so amazed at how different her neighborhood looked. She was used to seeing it from the road — shopping centers and parking lots. Yet just beyond them were beautiful fields. I took another friend up the Hudson River where it was legal and safe to fly below the air traffic control zone.

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, we flew up the right-side just like we would on a land road. We took pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers. Flight offers such a different, broader view of life and beauty.

I love looking for new flying experiences. A few times I drove to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to take hang-gliding lessons.

Hang-gliding in Kitty Hawk
Hang-gliding in Kitty Hawk

Just a few feet above the ground gave me an incredible feeling of flight reminiscent of Superman. The unusually high sand dunes and strong ocean breeze made it a perfect place to learn. Too bad it was so far away from my home. I couldn’t find a closer location as good as Kitty Hawk.

Although I didn’t fly it, seeing the Voyager aircraft land in California after its historic non-stop flight in 1986. Over the years, I have flown in a hot air balloon, the Goodyear blimp, and a World War II B-24 bomber. I even had an opportunity to try indoor skydiving. It required special clothing to make my body bob and float above the powerful fan. It was tricky to maneuver in the strong wind but there was a guide flying by my side to help me. My sister planned the early morning hot air balloon ride in Arizona.

Just off the Goodyear blimp
Just off the Goodyear blimp

I wanted to go higher! In Houston my cousin’s husband arranged a free ride 30 minute in the Goodyear blimp for myself and a few friends.

When the Collings Foundation came to Houston with World War II bombers, I was interested in the types of aircraft in which my father flew during that war. I took advantage of the opportunity to fly in the B-24 bomber. I sat in the radio operator station, which was similar to what I saw in one of my father’s old photographs. I  carefully walked through the bomb bay to crawl to a gunner’s seat in the front below the cockpit. I took plenty of pictures of the cockpit and the area in the airplane where the windows were open to the air so gunners could shoot the enemy.

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