On the Map: Modern Avionics - Ground School



Each day at work I pass a small airfield on the way to my lunch time getaway - a little spring on the outskirts of Eden Prairie.  The highway, "Flying Cloud Drive", is lined with aircraft hangers and tiny terminals, their pavements dotted with baby Cessnas, Pipers, and Beechcrafts.  In passing I picture myself in a blue jumpsuit - greasy hands, greasy forehead - climbing out from underneath the belly of a broken beast.

Once, a friend of mine had a brother with a small plane. He took us up over New Richmond and I remember spending our brief minutes in the air half terrified by the noise and half absorbed with finding points I recognized on the shrinking land below. It was beautiful. Since, I've had semi-spiritual moments of revelation when pilot movies flit past on the TV screen or jumbo jets take off nearby my office - can I come too! Please? I imagine shooting past islands in Alaska or landing on impossible runways in Papua New Guinea - I hear they need missionary pilots.


Then, a few weeks ago I noticed a marquee outside one of the terminals, Modern Avionics; it read, "Free Ground School - Begins Aug. 1st - Call xxx.xxx.xxxx...". Now, I've done my research - flying is expensive - and it can be more expensive if you aren't that serious about it -  so, just flirting with the idea of a pilot's liscense can be risky business for a student debtor like me. 

Yet as I drove past - I found myself at the door of the hanger, turning the handle and nervously asking the receptionist about Free Ground School - see, I look nothing like a pilot at this point, I don't even look like I would be the kind of person who might be a pilot at some point. I'm wearing a cream linen windowpane dress with a purple ribbon, brown dress shoes and a girly gray cartigan (the fact that I even know its windowpane linen should disqualify me right then and there) ... but hey, I mean, its free school, right? Then, a little dog named Maverick rolled over in front of me and begged for a belly rub - well, I breathed, maybe this is a good sign. 

She led me through the terminal lobby, a small brown room with old sofas (they always look the same), past an open hanger with white hibernating planes, and into a small classroom papered with flight maps, clocks, and old equipment.  Mmm, I like it here, I thought, M would like it here. An instructer named Josiah was charasmatically teaching a shaded woman on her recent venture in the skies - Josiah seemed wise for a young person, he smiled a lot and corrected gently.  As I waited, my mind raced anxiously ... what am I doing here? My favorite hobby is sewing ... could I really get my pilot's liscense? Wouldn't that be weird.  Oh, but SO COOL - I love nothing more than getting on an airplane ... preparing everything, going through the gates, wondering if you really will make it off the ground ... then Josiah spoke to me (which I totally missed because I was too busy freaking out a bit in my head) and had me sign my name on a clip board.  "Call this guy" he said as he handed me a card - "he's my boss and he'll explain everything to you".   

"Ok," I said and scampered out the door - I was late for work.  Amelia Earhart, here I come.