I lifted off under the dark, starry sky, admiring the splotches of city lights and a few patches of fog floating by underneath. I kept my eyes peeled to the horizon though, not wanting to miss a minute of the sunrise. This would be my first sunrise from a GA aircraft (like I mentioned, I’m not an early riser). The dark sky slowly lightened at the horizon, the colors changing from a dark blue-grey to a bright orange, the sun quickly rising from a sliver to a bright blazing ball. As the sun continued to rise, the reds and oranges faded into light blue.
With the first of my anticipated excitements for the day behind me, my thoughts drifted to the Wings ’n Wheels Old ’n New event at Wings Field (the birthplace of AOPA) where I was flying AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Remos GX to be on display. The event served as a fundraiser for Angel Flight East. There, I would experience another first—being a food tasting judge.
The “Wings Gozilla Cookoff” featured restaurants from the local area: Lee’s Hoagie House, P.J. Whelihan’s, Phil’s Tavern, Whitpain Tavern, and Michael’s Restaurant (if you ever fly into Wings Field, definitely check out one of these restaurants for lunch or dinner). Attendees bought tickets to taste the wings and vote on their favorite (50 cents bought one voting ticket and one wing). All of the proceeds were donated to Angel Flight East. Four lucky attendees, including myself, judged the wings based on their taste, aroma, tenderness, and overall quality, although after tasting the wings, I think “eye watering” should have been added to the scorecard. Crackers, celery, and water allowed us to “cleanse our palates” between wings. After a few wings, though, my lips never stopped tingling from the spices! One of my top picks, the wings from Lee’s Hoagie House, made it into one of the winning categories. (I was so inspired after tasting the wings that I later attempted to make my own. “Extra crispy/slightly burned” would needed to have been added as a category to judge mine. At least now I know the batteries in my smoke detectors still work.)
But the highlight of the day, by far, came from the pilots, Angel Flight East volunteers, AOPA members, and aviation enthusiasts who stopped by AOPA’s Remos GX (see “Nonpilot magnet”). Pilots who have flown around the world, evacuated families in advance of an approaching hurricane, or transported a baby for cancer treatments shared their love for aviation and for the mission of Angel Flight East with more than 3,000 visitors. For the visitors that day, there was no misperception that GA aircraft were “toys for the rich.” It was clear that these pilots focused on the families they had helped and the future missions they would fly.
To all volunteer pilots—Angel Flight East and other organizations—thank you for your testament to GA and, more importantly, for your service.