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A Gift From the Heart

Last Christmas, I got the chance to fulfill my daughter-in-law's childhood dream

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The first flight for Ann Smith Larson. Photo courtesy Henrik Kalberg, instructor, Hillsboro Aviation.

Ann Smith Larson in the pilot’s seat. Photo courtesy Henrik Kalberg, instructor, Hillsboro Aviation.

My son the artist wedded another artist whom he met at the school they both attended. He had already graduated, and was recruited by the admissions office to go forth and seek new art students. She was still an undergraduate when they met, and they soon became an item. He had made a solemn vow to abstain, as an older graduate, from trolling the younger students, but they ended up getting married, so his self-imposed rule was, in retrospect, fated to be broken.

Ann is exceptionally talented, and works at a large studio that produces full-length stop-motion features. When we attended a screening of the first film in which she had a hand, it took a while for the credits to scroll through the army of artists. When her name finally appeared, our band of family members let out a boisterous cheer that probably puzzled the last of the departing crowd.

It so happens that a few years back, this same daughter-in-law gifted me with two tiny airplanes she had crafted, at which time she let slip that she’d had a dream of learning to fly since she was a little girl. Fathers-in-law are not known for their acumen when it comes to gifting daughters-in-law, but this was too easy. Sometime before last Christmas, I called the fixed-base operator nearest to their home and arranged for a session with an instructor who could give her a taste of what flying a small airplane is like. The cost was nominal, and the FBO delivered a nifty certificate to her in time for Christmas. Her grateful reaction was effusive.

Winters are not the best time to take your first flying lesson in most climes, and Ann waited until early fall before calling the operator to set up a flight. I’d advised avoiding the peak heat of summer, and also recommended going in the morning before the sun’s heat could set the air to boiling.

Then, one night, an e-mail from my son: Ann had made her first flight, had posted her reaction on Facebook, and as is typical of her generation, her legion of Friends had passed along the news like a minor viral phenomenon. The operator must have chosen a good instructor for a newbie’s first flight: He let her fly it for most of the hour, air-touring the nearest city and even guiding her through some landings and takeoffs back at the home airport. Maybe a seed’s been planted; she says it has, and now that she’s had her first taste, she says that “someday”…. I hope that day comes.

If you have someone in the family who’s always talked about flying but never done it, maybe this is the year you make it happen. Happy holidays!

About George Larson

George Larson served as editor of Air & Space from 1985 to 2005. He is currently an inactive pilot, but holds a commercial pilot's license, with instrument and multi-engine ratings. He is between airplanes at this time, but has owned or operated a Grumman American AA-5B Tiger and a Mooney 201. He has been writing about aviation since 1972, when he joined the staff of Flying Magazine.

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