For me, that friend was The Oklahoma Aviator. This 12-page newspaper (honestly, it was printed on newsprint) came out once a month. Each time it arrived in my mail slot here at AOPA headquarters, it took me back to September 2004, when I went to Oklahoma to get some taildragger training. My instructor was Earl Downs, publisher of The Oklahoma Aviator, and we flew in his immaculate Aeronca Champ, Youfi. He and his wife, Mimi, welcomed me to their home in Cushing and treated me like family. While I was there, not only did I get my first taste of “real” airplane flying, but I also learned about oil pipeline patrol, and I got to watch a farrier shoe Mimi’s horses. (Every girl loves horses, donchaknow.)
In Oklahoma, I learned a lot about Earl, who has been involved in flying since he and his twin brother first bought a Cub when they were teenagers (or was it a Champ or a Chief? Sorry, Earl). I learned a lot about Mimi, a spiritual person who loves flying (she used to own an Ercoupe!) and horses and dogs and, most of all, Earl. I discovered the unexpected pleasure of flying in a part of the country where they don’t have to worry so much about busting airspace and looking down the wrong end of an F-16. The Aviator reminded me of all of this, not to mention the fact that there is a vibrant aviation community beyond my little corner of the world sandwiched in between P-40 and the Special Flight Rules Area.
So I’m sitting here with my friend for the last time. After 29 years (Earl ran things the last six years), the little newspaper is folding. I’m not going to get all pontificate-y about the state of publishing, or print versus online, or the state of GA. I’m just going to wish Earl and Mimi all the best and hope I can get back out to Oklahoma one of these days so we can catch up for real, instead of by newsprint.