Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tom Flies

Jodie and I have a recurring dinner date with our friends, Hillary and Tom. Every six weeks or so we meet up at a favorite restaurant for dinner. Hillary and Tom are great cooks themselves, and if Jodie and I are really lucky, we're occasionally invited over for such delicacies as Prime Rib, aged and cooked perfectly, or salad with homemade Ceasar dressing.

We all had dinner at a restaurant on Friday night and it was pointed out that I have been promising for years to take Tom flying. It's true. I had been meaning to fulfill that promise, but it always seemed like the time was never quite right. Then Saturday dawned, a perfect day. The skies were mostly clear and blue, with scattered cumulus puffs. Winds were light across the region, with the prevailing direction being from the northwest, perfect for most runways in this area. On a perfect, clear day with no cross-wind, what was there to do but go flying?

Tom met me at the airport. He's a car guy, so I rambled on about the mechanical aspects of the plane during my preflight inspection and answered his questions, then we launched from Gaithersburg for Cambridge, Maryland. The air was smooth, with only an occasional convective bump. Tom was enthralled, and exclaimed as we crossed I-95 that he couldn't believe we were already there.


It was the clearest day I have ever seen in this area. From only 2,000 feet, we could see both downtown Washington and Baltimore's Inner Harbor, simultaneously. The Washington Monument stood out clearly -- I have never seen it before amidst the haze that is prevalent to this area. We passed Annapolis and climbed to 3,500 feet as we crossed the Chesapeake, marveling at the hundreds (thousands?) of small boats that were on the water. Saint Michael's passed off our left wing, where Dick Cheney has a home. We chuckled as we contemplated creative ways of expressing lack of affection from an airplane.

After a good lunch in Cambridge, we took off to head home and I handed the controls over to Tom almost immediately after takeoff. His experience at the wheel of a BMW served him well, and it took just a few minutes before he was holding the Tiger on course and altitude.

Just kidding!

I dialed back the power to stretch the time on the ride home, so we could relish the unlimited visibility and smooth air. We flew through the corridor from Annapolis toward Gaithersburg at 1,700 feet. The mountains of Virginia and along the Pennsylvania border north of Maryland were clearly visible 40+ miles away. Tom's handling of the plane was so instinctual, I took control only reluctantly as we turned toward the traffic pattern at Gaithersburg.

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

After we landed and parked, I took my time wiping down the leading edges of the wings and washing the windscreen. Tom kept me company, and we chatted about the flight and airplane ownership. I smiled as I noticed that he was in no rush to leave the airport (although a BMW M-series convertible waited for him in the parking lot). When the plane was finally secured and covered, we walked toward the cars. Tom asked if he could give me money for gas.

"No, but you could give us some prime rib at your place again," I responded.

"We have one in the freezer," he said.

I love it when a plan comes together....

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