Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Got to Fly!

An amazing thing happened just the other day.  Something that I have been longing for.  The missing link in my current career...

I got to fly.

Now I’m not talking about just any kind of flying.  I got fly on my old plane- the P-3 Orion- but as a civilian this time. 

Though it felt like a lifetime ago, it had [only] been eleven years.   Fortunately, I was able to still squeeze into my old flight suit that I had held onto all these years (and three kids later). 
So when I arose that morning, I was sure to tell everyone I know that I was flying.  The babysitter.  The gas station worker who made my breakfast burrito.  Fred, the hitch-hiker I pass every morning on my way into work.  He was not amused.  I swear Fred has no sense of humor some days.

And although I was slightly disappointed to not be met with a grand brass band serenading me as I gallantly walked up the ladder, my smile never left my face. 

The most surprising thing that I realized- as I climbed the ladder that I had once fallen down and broke the fall with my face on the tarmac- is that essentially nothing had changed. 

I found immediate relief in this.  With the looming threat of the “new and improved” P-8 threatening to take over our happy P-3 world, casting aside the old war craft with a swift fling,  one tends to cling to the familiar.

What was it about these dirty old planes that leaked oil, smelled of old men, and JP-5 exhaust with a splash of stained urine on the bathroom floor?  And when I say bathroom what I really mean is a closet with a free-standing urinal that never gets completely washed out after each use- but simply is reused as is.  Again and again.  Now imagine that smell in an air-tight sealed plane.

What is it about this hunk of steel that often brings me to the brink of nauseousness over and over that I’ve missed for so long?

Was it the thousand plus hours of my life that I devoted to the P-3 and her various missions?

Was it the way her engines lulled us gently in a dazed and relaxed state?   And just as we're about to fade off into a deep sleep, the plane drops, instantly causing everyone’s stomach to choke up in their throat as we broke through a slick of air and dropped a hundred feet.  God I miss that.

Or maybe it was the stressed whine she made while yanking into a turn, wings vibrating and blood draining out of our face. 

I could not be sure.

Perhaps it is just the memories that are tied up in those hours of staring into the deep blue Atlantic, Caribbean, or Mediterranean waters- searching for illegal drug runners- all the while dreaming of what my future held in far off places.  Or sitting sideways without a window, staring into a green computer screen littered with lines from ship engines- looking for one tiny line- a single minute of contact that stood out different from the rest.  Or maybe it was the on-station conversations at three o’clock in the morning, with a cheek full of salty sunflower seeds, as we tried to stay alert and awake through the long night.

Maybe it was the thrill of the catch- finding a submarine, a ship, a landmark, or even survivors of a wreck at sea.

Most likely it was a combination of all of the above.  Every airman has their favorite memories of the P-3.  The people and the places she took us to.  The reminder every so often that all of those hours counted for something.

The P-3 will always remain the guardian of the sea.  As long as she patrols the coast lines, her country’s citizens can sleep easy at night.

I promised myself in that moment I would never take a flight for granted again.  And I would buy Fred a bus pass.


  1. So glad you've gotten to fly again. I know how you've loved it and missed it. :) Mom