It’s Starboy’s 25th birthday this month! Born in Malibu, I remember so well . . . and still he’s healthy, sound — ready to fly like a Piper Warrior, into the woods at endurance speed — and enjoy!
In tribute to Starboy, here’s a jovial piece from my journal, written December, 2012.
My Horse: My Airplane
My horse is an airplane, my airplane, and my soul longs to take up his yoke and soar.
As I roll open the gate and lead him from his barn-hanger, I feel the thrill of knowing that we’ll be in the air, soon.
Like my fellow aviators, I administer my preflight routine: Brush off his hair coat—check. Pick out his hooves—check. Pad, saddle, girth, bridle—check, check, check.
Before I mount, I run my hand across his silky neck, and I remember my dad’s first airplane, when I was very young. After all, it was a horse – an airplane called a Piper Colt — a tiny economical two-seater with not metal, but a painted cloth exterior.
I remember Dad being extra careful in his preflight check to be sure there were no scrapes or tears in the thing. (Fortunately, there never were.)
Dad told my brother and me, “Don’t touch the skin – it’s thin as paper! You could poke your finger through it by mistake!”
Gee, Dad, I thought. How safe is that?
Fortunately my plane is made of proper flesh – no paint-coated cloth cut-outs for me.
I stand back and admire how he looks: Sturdy sleek lines, aerodynamic contours, built to take on the task at hand.
My open air, VariEze-Berkut-Lear-Jet experimental model (Starboy) is ready to take me into the skies!
I climb up onto his fuselage, clamor into his cockpit. Secure.
We idle out of the ranch, down the taxiway, ready to accelerate, to elevate, to leave earth’s gravity and experience the weightless thrill of unfettered flight.
VariEze experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia: By Stephen Kearney (Personal collection.)
Once in the forest, I ease in the throttle – and we’re air-born – just like that! How effortlessly he melds with the winds aloft, soaring up the trail.
Sensitive, responsive, like the best-made craft, my horse climbs, hooves churning, pouring on the power, heaving forth into the great expanse.
His silken mane flaps with the currents, his hooves kick up dust-particle-vortices – beware traffic following too close behind!
Gliding, soaring, we yaw, pitch, and roll our way through the cool-air, wooded-wonderland, my face smiling in delight – whooping out loud, praising Starboy, awakening the little girl in me who always loves to fly.
I remember seeing houses, all the rows of houses and driveways and cars and swimming pools, and how small they looked from above.
I remember falling asleep in the back of Dad’s next, bigger airplane, his Beechcraft Bonanza, on the way home from Disneyland – at 2am – where Dad worked as Bandleader at the Park.
I remember half-awaking to the lullaby sound of the engine, feeling the bumps and swoops of flight, the plane gently caressing me — Dad in the cockpit, a serene look on his face — the small red light, and the glow of the instrument panel illuminating his profile.
I hear the sounds of the radio, static, clicking in and out, and the voice of Dad’s nightly Air Traffic Controller friend at the LAX tower, “How’s it going up there, Mickey Mouse?”
I dodge a tree branch before it snaps me in the face, Starboy soaring, sailing his way upward.
The forest footing feels damp today, boggy in places, snow patches here and there. Not to fear. Acrobatic maneuvers are Starboy’s specialty!
He dances and darts to firmer ground, wiggles his wings, loops the loop and skillfully applies the laws of aerodynamics in his own horsey way.
We barnstorm the woods like a Curtis Jenny with it’s Hispano-Suiza engine my Grandfather told of from his 1918 days in the Army Air Service, WWI.
I remember pouring through Grandfather’s vintage monotone photographs, held into the book by little black paste-on corners. His six-foot-tall frame looked small next to the massive cowling, props, and engine of the planes he flew and worked on as mechanic.
One day, after I started flying, Grandfather explained his favorite acrobatic maneuver, the Chandelle – think Flex-Straw.
He thrust his now-aged hand above him into a steep climb – steel-blue eyes following – rotating into an upward U-turn, doubling back and continuing on – smiling now, just a bit – re-living the thrills of his earlier adventures, before career and kids and life set in . . .
I took Grandfather flying just once, about two years after I’d gotten my pilot license – out of Santa Monica. He hadn’t been in a small plane since Dad had passed, a decade before.
I grabbed his wiry eightysomething arm and helped him into the cockpit next to me, where he sat stoic, looking out at the mountains, and homes, and landscapes below. (I remember the feeling of intense responsibility in piloting him, and great relief in returning him, unharmed, to Terra firma.)
Before he died, he gave me his log book, documenting fifty hours of flight training, as well as his original leather military flight helmet, faded and tattered by time. (Which, when I tried it on my head, fit, perfectly!)
Starboy’s reins feel warm in my gloved hands, transmitting soft contact through rudder and aileron, saddle and leg. No extra right rudder needed to offset this engine torque! Coordinated turns, perfect bank, my airplane’s motion satisfies my soul with fine-tuned grandeur.
And I realize how fortunate I am – how very few who set out to be pilots, very few who endeavor to be horsemen, really master the art, melding as one with their craft.
And I recall my own years of flight over these very mountains, alone at the controls of my rented Cherokee Warrior aircraft.
I remember well one crisp winter day, smiling, singing, weaving above ridgelines and canyons dusted in sugar-coated snow – songs of Judy Collins playing on my at-the-time high-tech Sony Walkman.
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feathered canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way…
We turn onto a spur trail now, a shortcut toward home. Starboy’s neck stretches, his engine begs more RPM’s. I hold him back – I’m the pilot, he’s the craft. No runaway-out-of-control tailspins for us!
As we rise and fall with the updrafts, the forest smells beautiful today. Early winter silver boughs sparkle in the late-day sun. It’s a perfect flight on Starboy, doing what we love best…
And I remember my life back then, twentysomething entrepreneur, grabbing onto the yoke of life, the Fashion Industry’s fickle trends dictating my every move.
Sales, manufacturing, Boutique shows, employees. And yet all I really wanted was to find a way to make a living with horses. To ride – and fly – and soar into dimensions of the soul…
I never tire of the energy, the spectacle, the lightness of flight. How it lifts me out of my earthly doldrums and whisks me into whimsy. And now, here on Starboy, flying home. Satisfied.
Mid-life Dawn winks an eye at her former self, knowing that I’m flying again, like I always have. Cherishing my well-tuned craft and his subtle response to my slightest cues. Just the way it should be.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From here and there and still somehow
With life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life, at all…
Turning base, descending for our landing now, I see the houses of our valley – like the houses from the airplanes of my youth. And I smile. Big!
Because I’ve looked at life from both sides now, lived life from both sides – up in the air, and down on the forested earth. And I’m here, flying Starboy right now – just where I most like to be.
We touch down at the forest gate – soft, smooth. Then taxi the final stretch to our glider’s home port.
Starboy whinnies, deeply, to the other members of his herd, who answer in shrill reply.
But instead of refueling with Avgas, my Bonanza-Warrior-Hispano-Suiza-Starboy dines tonight – on alfalfa hay!
Copyright 2012, 2015
Like what you’ve read here? Please visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn