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What does a falling tree look like from the air?

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about flying in Hawaii. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

tree cutting 1Every day away from the air means more hours in it to reach my goal. At 25 hours with the last 10 spread out over months, I am making little progress toward my solo.

A big, big milestone birthday approaches. My two-year goal to solo on or near it was dashed by family medical problems that led me to be a caregiver instead of a flight-taker. (My practical daughter suggested that perhaps I should not fly because her father needed me, and what if something happened? I suggested that, well, I could just take him up with me. “That works,” she said.) My husband came in the airplane with me a few times, but he would rather stay at home, as riding in small airplanes makes him airsick.

Weeks passed. Months passed. I have forgotten half of what I learned.

Got…to…get…up in the air…in a small airplane.

My most recent flight instructor agreed to take me up a couple of weeks ago. It was a constant speed propeller plane, one that had extra items to attend to. It had been eight months since I had flown, and it showed. He did most of the work that day. We did do go-arounds to practice landings at a nearby airfield.

Now, a week later, my birthday loomed, and I had to take to the air. Jerry agreed to take me up again.

With the review the week before, some basics had began to come back to me. I certainly feel more comfortable in the left seat of any airplane with a trusty CFI by my side.
My birthday is near Halloween, so scary stuff comes out all the time anyway. Scary it was to have to review so much when I was getting so close to solo nearly two years ago.

Taking a deep breath on a clear, blue morning at our house, I head to the airfield. Only as I get close do I see fog hanging about. Jerry calls. Farther west the fog is so thick he is sure that it is not a flyable day. He wants to know how long I am willing to wait it out for the top of the nearby butte to be visible for the needed ceiling.

It is my birthday; not only do I have all day, but I have arranged for a very special gift from my husband.

You see, we live in a clearing in a forest on a ridge. Eighteen months ago we had 17 100-foot Douglas fir trees cut down. In the winter we now have sun in some windows. Yet there was one tree at the end of a row near our pond that I thought needed to be removed to enhance our view.

“Honey, how about if you cut down that fir tree for my birthday gift while I fly over it?” He rolls his eyes. He agrees.

Earlier in the morning that I am headed to the Lebanon airport for my flight, he had already finished the undercut and started the backside cut. This tree had to come down this day on purpose before the wind came up and it came down on its own. Yes, I would wait until too dark for that fog to clear for my flight over our house.

We wait out the fog. It lifts, and no one was scheduled for that Cessna 172 anyway. We take off and head over to my property. Since it was my special day, I asked Jerry to do as little as possible and just tell me what to do. And we were flying the older, simpler (and cheaper) airplane.

As the airplane approaches our property, my husband cuts the last bit of trunk and sure enough, I see the tree fall while in the air. Certainly a unique event for a seventieth birthday.

I breathe a sigh of relief. I can see that the fallen tree missed the greenhouse and the llama. As we fly away from the property and over the fields, my smartphone lens is now put away and my hands again on the yoke. We take a look at a private grass airstrip and contemplate the steps necessary to land there. Thoughts only, but a future goal, as I already have permission to use that field. Then off through the skies toward the pattern and onto the airfield, keeping that little airplane a foot off the runway as long as possible for my training. Lesson and fun event in the same hour.—Jean Moule

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1 Comment

  1. Not a tree hugger, but as a Texan with only stinkin Hackberrys in my yard to stare at, cutting down those beautiful firs is almost sacrilegious…

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