My first experience with freefall was tumbling to the ground
from that hospital bed. The next was from when I was four and my dad took me
up for my first airplane ride.
I remember him showing me the neighborhood from the sky,
wagging the wings to say hello to everyone below, then he took me on a tour of
some big puffy white clouds. I didn’t have a seatbelt on, and so wanting a
better view I stood on the seat and crawled in the back, then ran back and
forth from window to window. Everything looked so tiny. Everything looked
Little 4-year-old Jerry couldn’t get enough of that
Then Dad played a trick on
me. He put the plane into what’s now called a “vomit comet” dive,
just enough to cancel out gravity inside the cockpit. The seat cushions fell
away from my feet, and my butt bumped against the ceiling. “Look at
you!” he said. “You’re really flying now!” Panic didn’t come
immediately – I was in shock at being in midair, floating above the seats –
then instinct kicked in and my little brain shouted “Danger! Danger! You’re
When we went in for the
landing, I looked out the front, over the nose and through the spinning blur of
the propeller, and saw this tiny postage stamp thing that was the airport. No
way, I remember thinking. That’s not going to work.
“Dad,” I said, “we can’t land there! It’s too small!”
Indeed, it looked like it could fit into our backyard.
Finally, on the ground, I felt
queasy … but I wanted to go up again. He laughed. “I’ll make a pilot
out of you yet,” he said.
Several years later I was with
him in one of his twin-engine planes, and we pulled the stunt on our
long-haired Chihuahua, Taffy. She looked very confused as she floated up out
of my lap, and her little legs went nuts, and she started spinning around.
When she started crying I grabbed her. I felt bad but we were still laughing
Another thing my Dad would do,
is he would tell me to put my hands on the stick (which in most cases was a
wheel) then he’d let go of his and say, “Okay! You’re flying!” I’d
tip the wings back and forth, do some shallow dives and climbs, and do a few
I never did get my license,
but I do love to fly. Sure it’s dangerous. But I’ll tell you something …
you know why pilots become pilots?
Because it’s so damn fun!