Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Pilot and a Boy's Dream to Fly

I had a chance to pay it forward
by Don T.

I grew up in the Atwater district of Los Angeles. As a nine or ten-year-old boy, I would occasionally ride my bike to the Lockheed Air Terminal on Saturday mornings to watch airplanes take off and land. I found a spot at the fence next to the Old Trapper Lodge, close to the taxiway. I would wave at the pilots. Every once in a while, they would see me and wave back. I wanted to fly like that someday.
Some 30 years later, I was working at Lockheed in the engineering flight test department. I worked on the S-3A program as a navigation/electronics engineer and co-pilot. One Saturday morning, as we taxied to the runway, I glanced to my right. There standing was a nine or ten-year-old lad at that very same spot at the fence with his bike. He was waving to me! I waved back with both arms.
We had to hold short of the runway for landing traffic, so it gave me time to tell test pilot Lyle Schaefer my story, with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. He said, “Let’s show him a performance takeoff.” I didn't know the S-3A could climb so steeply!
I just hope that boy grew up to be a test pilot, an airline pilot or even an astronaut.

I had an opportunity to pay it forward!