23 de Agosto 2021

photo borrowed from https://www.westin553.net/propFoto01/m202-01.jpg


I have never been interested in being a pilot or in the technical things that make up planes, but I did develop an interest in aviation when I was a young boy. Every Sunday evening, my parents would pack us up in the station wagon and off we would go to a drive-through ice cream place where we were each treated to an orange/vanilla twist ice cream cone. The next stop was the airport.

It must have been dad who liked to watch planes land and take off and in Missoula in the 60’s, I imagine I am talking about a plane landing and taking off! Usually we stood outside the wire fencing and when the plane would turn to move away from the terminal we were faced with the forceful wind caused by the propellers and then overwhelmed by the sound of the engines. I loved it while I cannot speak for my siblings.

I remember also going into the terminal either to pick up dad or to drop him off (I can’t remember), but I think he was going to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Anyway, in the terminal I remember the enormous façade of glass windows shaking as the plane drew near or turned to leave. This was excitement for a little boy and I note here that I’m just talking about seeing planes on the ground!

It would not be until I was in high school when I took my first flight. For some reason I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to take a flight and my adventure was framed by going to see an aunt and uncle and later my paternal grandparents. The trip was a long one on what my dad called a puddle jumper. That means that to get from Missoula to Fargo’s Hector Field, the plane would stop at Butte, Great Falls, Billings, Bismarck and then Fargo from where it probably went to Minneapolis. Aviation routes have changed so much over the years, but in the early 70’s, this is what was available. By this time, however, propellers may have been a thing of the past as I do recall the boastful welcome by the ‘stewardess’ to ‘fan jet service.’

I think my next ‘big trip’ was from Missoula to Boston with a return from Philadelphia. A friend and I had arranged to make our college interviews together. So, in Boston, my friend interviewed at Harvard and then we took a train down to New York City where I interviewed at Columbia for my college in Paris. We also stopped at Princeton Junction where my friend interviewed again and from where we made our way to Philadelphia. From there, I remember that somehow we found ourselves in first class, seated behind Chet Huntley of NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. Mr. Huntley was a few years retired by then and was going to Big Sky, Montana where he planned to open a ski resort.

Since those years, I have been on many national and international flights. I earned my wings as a Delta Million Miler while changing flights in Salt Lake City. Kind of a let-down. An agent caught me just outside the plane and then took me downstairs from the gateway to a waiting car on the tarmac. I guess it was supposed to have been an impressive car but I have forgotten it. The drive was from my arrival gate to the departure gate and Salt Lake City’s airport, being relatively small, the drive took about one minute. I received a boxed pen and from that point on…nothing, no perks, nothing. I once commented that million milers, no matter the cost of their flight, should be allowed to board with First Class passengers. That suggestion went down like a led balloon…speaking of aviation.

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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