Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Old? Who Are You Calling Old?

I’m an annual birthday greeter who calls or e-mails friends on their special day with whatever age-related thorn I can stick in their side. Monday’s victim was my “old” boss, flight instructor, and friend who turned 65.

He is still an overactive aviator. I know because, being with the CIA, I spy on him via his Web site. He earned his pilot’s license when he was about 16 in the Windy City of Chicago, if memory serves. He towed banners behind his Cessna 182 and has since flown almost everything fixed wing, small to large, and eventually started a business of flying fickle hot-air balloons—in windy Colorado. His Native American moniker is Passing By with Wind.

I met WP right after graduating from college in May 1981 when I applied for what I thought was a copywriting job at his radio station. A gal in my journalism school was a reporter there and suggested I apply for their opening.

As fate would have it, I had a huge red zit at the end of my already big nose, and this general manager had a lovely office with a wall of windows overlooking Half Moon Lake. All the better to see your big red zit, my dear, I could imagine him thinking. All he remembers were my big blue eyes, and he dubbed me Blue Eyes…which is far better than Rudolph.

With a welcome the size of a 747, this big, booming guy wore a smile that eroded any thought that he would dislike me because of having a blemish, and his personality broadcasted as effervescently as Santa Claus on his first rounds.

I felt intimidated. But after meeting the whole sales staff, they offered me the job of account executive. It sounded like an important position, so I accepted. They gave me a dead list, literally in some cases, and I tried to sell time, yes time, primarily to retailers, on the radio—30-second spots. Imagine that.

About a year later, this Big Guy learned that I had wanted my pilot’s license since I was 10, so he loaned me the red Cessna training kit and offered to have me fly with him. Life was looking up.

Every so often, we’d fly to a restaurant just off a dirt or grass strip runway. We’d enjoy lunch, then he would write about the food and service for an aviation magazine. WP was always doing something.

So one year he came to visit me in Colorado Springs while assessing possibilities on the Front Range. We enjoyed a great hike up in the mountains nearby. And sure enough, he moved to Colorado. And soon, everyone knew him.

I walked into the United Airlines Flight Center to fly in one of the sims and asked the gal in front if a guy called WP ever came in there. “Oh, yes! Big Guy. He’s an instructor here.”

“Wasteth no time” must be his motto. I have much to learn.

So yesterday he responded to my e-mail calling himself an old fart.

Now, the fart part I believe. But old? This guy’s too quick to ever let Old catch him.

If you like it, link it!

Read about his program at www.b737.com/index.htm


  1. I flew with WP 25 years ago. He started the flight by opening a three ring binder and reading aloud in a dead serious tone "Anyone can learn to fly...."


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