My Horse: My Airplane

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.

Señor Starboy :))

Señor Starboy :))

~~~

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.

Starboy, Aria, ready to go . . .

Pilot and Aircraft — ready to go . . .

~~~

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?

Dad with an earlier plane.

Dad with an earlier plane.

~~~

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.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/VariEze_in_flight.jpg/320px-VariEze_in_flight.jpg

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!

Starboy's flying mane

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.

(Listen to Dad’s Disneyland music here: Elliott Brothers Orchestra at Disneyland  — Read more about Dad here: You Can Do Anything and Family of Flying.)

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?”

Old Control Tower at LAX

The Old Control Tower at LAX — in operation when Dad flew his nightly Disneyland commute.

~~~

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.

Grandfather vintage shot -- Curtis Jenny with Hispano Suisa engine.

Grandfather in mechanic suit, holding the prop.  — Curtis Jenny with Hispano Suisa engine.

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!)

Grandfather, U.S. Army Air Service, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Grandfather, U.S. Army Air Service, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

~~~

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…

Rows and Flows of Angel Hair

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…

Here I am, third generation pilot, with a Piper Tomahawk. (My Mom shot this pic.)

Here I am, third generation pilot, with a Piper Tomahawk. (My Mom shot this pic.)

~~~
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.

Starboy on the Trail

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!

Starboy in Sunlight

~~~~

Copyright 2012, 2015

~~~~

Like what you’ve read here? Please visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn

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23 Comments

September 18, 2015 · 1:11 pm

23 responses to “My Horse: My Airplane

  1. Up,,up and away! Starboy can take you to the stars. Beautiful flight, Dawn.

  2. Reblogged this on Vortex 144 and commented:
    This is a gorgeous and beautiful example of living in the vortex. Love Debbie

  3. Gorgeous share, Dawn. So rich with depth and meaning and vivid sensations of your experience. Thank you. With love, Debbie

    • Thank you, Debbie :)) Yes, the richness surrounds us in so many ways — if we can stand back, close our eyes and feel — we re-connect to why we’re really here. Creative expressions and limitless possibilities :))

  4. Lovely simile. I always thought jumping and galloping was like flying. I think I chose Lipizzans (or they chose me?) because they are the least ‘grounded’ of horses. They prefer to soar.

  5. By the way, this made me realize why I find Charlie boring. He’s actually fun to train and fun because he’s so kind and reliable; he’s smart and quick to learn new things and he’s very giving. But he doesn’t ‘fly’. He’s very grounded. I don’t think he even has a moment of suspension and he doesn’t know about ‘forward’. The Lipizzans and what I like about them is that they are usually kind and reliable and smart and bold – and also don’t feel attached to the ground. And it isn’t a question of ‘smoothness’; Charlie is very smooth and comfortable. But he doesn’t fly….

  6. Happy Birthday to Starboy, and amazing to hear of him still buzzing in the sky at the age of 25. I so agree with you, there is something about the feeling of flight. Whether it is on the back of a majestic animal like Starboy or in a plane flying high (you’ve definitely had a life of living with just those two experiences), it is the feeling of living that is special. Wonderful post and I hope your recent rides into Mt. Pinos, and the Chumash Indian world were spectacular (as I imagine they must have been). Safe travels to Oahu and Molokai.

    • Wow — Dalo :)) Starboy, still sound, beautiful, 27 years young in September (I just rubbed and loved him up while he ate his breakfast today :)) How are you, Randall? Your Life, your travels, your photos and your beautiful perspective??? I just found this awesome comment of yours in a backlog of comments I must have not seen. My oops! Please let me know how your life is unfolding today :)) Dawn

      • Hey Dawn, great to hear from you. 27 years young 🙂 Amazing, a great bond you’ve developed. I’ve been doing more travel than expected but have enjoyed it. Spending most of this year in the Czech Republic with work, but just landed stateside a couple weeks ago and enjoying being home again. Great to hear you and Starboy are doing well!

        • Awesome Dalo :)) :)) Great to hear from you!!! Let me know if you can get to the LA area and I’ll take you riding :)) You can stay here with Rick and me in our log cabin — we can ride Pinos and drive Starboy in the Meadowbrook Amish-made cart :)) :)) 661 245-2182 home phone number. Starboy and the herd, send you a whinny :))

        • How I would love to come for a visit, especially a ride with you I imagine would simply be magical too! I now just have to make it happen 🙂 If you are ever in one of my neighborhoods, without a doubt give me a ring! Take care Dawn and enjoy the day!

        • You never know how Life unfolds . . . if you can make it to LA or Burbank I’ll drive down and pick you up :))

  7. Hi Aunt Dawn! It’s been so long that we last interacted at all! Med school usually keeps my energy drained so I’m barely able to keep with pretty much anything else!
    I loved reading this post! Please keep blogging!

    “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…”
    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! ❤️

    • Awesome, Ayesha, trudging on through Med school — as my Dad would say, “‘At a girl, honey, you can do anything!” And you can! So glad to hear from you — keep up your studies :)) Auntie Dawn

  8. Amazing post! Absolutely fascinating to read! Really lovely! Love seeing a bit of history, really puts into perspective how things have changed! I look forward to any future posts on flying adventures!

    Josh.D

  9. This is such a beautiful blog, Dawn.

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