My dad always had what we kids would call his “grungy hat”. It was a baseball cap of some sort and he usually had a couple of them rotating in circulation at any given time: he had a vendor hat that he wore at work, he had a piloting hat that he wore in the plane, etc. He rarely wore his hat in the house nor did he wear it at anything that would be beyond a casual gathering. In every photo I have of my dad piloting a plane (including several photos I took from behind him in the Piper J-5A), he is wearing his hat.
At the end of last year I found a hat I really liked. It fits perfectly and comfortably and I feel good when I wear this hat. It’s a digital camo US Army hat that I picked up in our travels. I have been asked a couple of times if I was in the military and I always tell the truth and answer to the negative by saying, “I’ve never had that honor.”
I started flying with my hat at the end of last year. I tend to not wear it, since it doesn’t really fit with what I usually wear as my flying clothes, but it’s always in my carry-on back pack and when I get settled in my seat I take it out and drape it over my left knee. It’s probably kind of silly in a way, but I do this because when my dad and I would fly side by side I’d be in the co-pilot seat and he’d be to my left. The US Army symbology works because dad had the honor of serving in the military in the Reserves.
The flight home from Minneapolis was interesting. The flight attendant, Dawn, asked if I was in the military and I gave her my standard answer. She asked why I had the hat and I told her it was my lucky hat because it reminds me of my dad. I told her that I always fly with it. As we got closer to the airport, the pilot let us know that it was going to be a bumpy landing and Dawn said that we should “remain seated to be safe in the turbulence.” I must admit that I have never heard a flight attendant word an announcement in that way but I was glad that she did. Everyone stayed in their seats.
As we approached runway 15 at SYR the plane was bouncing all over the place. The lavatory door was flying open and closed and I could hear roller boards rolling all over the place in the overhead compartments. As we were coming over Interstate 81 we felt a surge of acceleration, the conditions were too windy and we were going to try again. To the folks in Eastwood, yes, we buzzed you. I haven’t been on a plane that buzzed someone in a long time.
Everyone around me tensed up. A lot. This didn’t bother me at all, I’d been in similar circumstances in a much smaller plane and I know that pilots err to the side of caution. No sweat.
But boy did we bounce around.
The pilot announced that the wind gusts were too high and that indicators were showing bad, we were going to try again. We flew the pattern counter-clockwise, turning base, then final and bumping around like crazy again. Off in the distance we watched another plane successfully land. We headed toward runway 15 and we didn’t get quite over Interstate 81 when they pulled up again.
“We’re going to try again one more time. We have plenty of fuel. If we can’t make it on the third time, we’re going to head to Albany.”
People around me were getting really tense. I remarked, “well that makes sense, Albany is ahead of the front.” I was asked if I was a pilot and I answered to the negative (I need to rectify that) but I added that I had flown since I was a baby and had plenty of experience flying in a private plane, had even co-piloted a few times.
We flew the pattern clockwise this time and in doing so we buzzed downtown Syracuse and the Fairgrounds. It was wicked bumpy, much more so than the last time we went around the pattern. We turned base, turned final and headed toward runway 15.
The third time had to be the charm. It’s the way things work.
As we came in over Interstate 81 I knew this one was going to be the keeper. I had one hand on my hat and instinctively I had pulled my pillow onto my lap, apparently just in case. We landed left wheels first, then front, then right. The passengers applauded, which I usually think is silly but the pilots deserved it. The tension subsided and all was well, though as we taxied to the terminal the plane was still getting blown around pretty good.
I think tonight my hat earned it’s “grungy hat” status. I’ll be carrying it on all my flights and every time I do so, I’ll be flying with my dad.