Category Archives: flying

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Winning the Lottery

I won the lottery this week. Not the Georgia Lottery, but one even better than that.  I’d have to play the lottery to actually win, and I can’t really see the value in that.

This week, I got to spend time with my mom, I introduced one of our grandsons to one of our favorite books, I had a picnic with a new friend, I started physical therapy for my knee, I went on a walk with another new friend (or I tried), I saw a movie with Michael, AND I made another new friend.  The icing on the cake was finding out I could go to college in Georgia for free.  Age does have its privileges.  Can you imagine a better week?

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom is always fun and anyone who knows us knows we love road trips.  We just came back from a successful road trip with Sloan, another grandson, and he liked our habit of listening to audiobooks on the road. With Jacob, a somewhat reluctant reader, we chose “Skink, No Surrender,” by Carl Hiassen.  Carl Hiassen is one of our favorite authors and even his books for young readers keep us entertained.  Jacob laughed the entire trip and even asked to turn on the phone when we got inside. He couldn’t get enough!

We got home Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning I had an appointment.  This was where I met my new friend, Mike, in the most unlikely place. We had already talked on the phone and I knew he was very helpful, but when we met in person we clicked.  You can never have too many friends.  He’s a smart guy, a social worker, and I’m adding him to our Boxing Day party list.  Not just everyone goes on that list!  Thank you, Mike.  I never expected to find a new friend that day, especially when the next lady who came in acted like I was some kind of nut case.

This was a very quick trip and I’m on a diet so I got three barbecue sandwiches that I intended to ration carefully.  I ate one for supper on Tuesday and I knew both needed to be eaten on Wednesday, but there was no way.  When my friend Lawrence said the magic words, I suggested a picnic on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect and we ate under a big tree at Wesleyan College.  The company was outstanding, even though we were both eaten up by ants and I’m still itching.  If you know me very well, you know I don’t share my barbecue sandwiches with just anyone, so you know Lawrence must be a very special friend.

Paige Parker is the best physical therapist in the world.  If anyone can help my knee, Paige can.  She worked miracles with my shoulder.  I’m highly motivated, but she pushes.  I’m optimistic.  Getting an appointment brightened my mood.

The best laid plans don’t always work out, and the rain prevented my walk with Hal.   I have so much respect for Hal Brickle and his work with the weekend lunch and I couldn’t wait to walk with him, so off we went. We got to the stop sign, and down came the rain.  I hobbled back to the car and he ran a little faster.  J

As I said, the icing on the cake was finding out I can go to college for free at state schools in Georgia. I’m particularly interested in the history program at Middle Georgia College, perhaps the music program there, the theatre program at Georgia College in Milledgeville, or if I’m really serious about studying, economics at Georgia State University.  For $49 per course, I can even go to Emory University.  I could get a BSN at Middle Georgia College, but I think I’m over that.  I think I want to do something FUN!  I may be the only person, though, who thinks public policy and economics sounds like fun.

First, though, let’s get some money coming in on a more regular basis. But this has certainly been a fun week.

The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

Remembering

“Four shirts, four pairs of pants, a snow machine suit, and I’m still cold.”  Thus began my journal, on this this day in 2000. I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, flying a 1946 McDonald Douglas DC-4 delivering fuel to remote villages.  This contract pilot stent may very well be the craziest thing I’ve ever done and sometimes I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Why was I in Alaska?  Money.  Insanity.  Opportunity.  Adventure.  I already had a class date with Netjets of February 8, 2000.  I had sold my flight school and would finally get the airline job I had coveted for 30 years, and I really had nothing to do.  A month in Alaska would help me cover the gap.

I got my DC-4 experience flying night freight for Custom Air Charter out of Hampton, GA.  Not many people want to fly 60 year old airplanes, at night, without radar and at fairly low altitudes. Bob McSwiggan’s attitude was that radar “only scares the pilots.”  He was the owner, and besides owning a freight airline he is a tap dancer!  But that’s a story for another day.  The photo is not the DC-4 that I flew, but you get the idea.  In Atlanta, I flew the Carvair conversion, which you can see here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FfOmlb4SAU.

Flying a DC-4 was romantic and exciting, but it was hard work and sometimes dirty work.  The radial engines leaked oil and sometimes quit unexpectedly, but I loved those R-2000 engines.  On the ground, you had to climb on the wing and put a stick in the fuel tanks to confirm the fuel levels. In the air, you had to keep your eyes on the gauges and periodically pump oil to the engines. The instruments in the cockpit were appropriate for the 1940s.  It was just plain fun.

I got a call from a pilot friend in December to fill in for one of the pilots for Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks.  There aren’t a lot of qualified DC-4 pilots and initially I said no.  He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse –  I would be guaranteed 8 hours a day flying time, a ridiculous hourly rate, a generous per diem, plus a place to stay.  Off I went.

The place they gave me was so dirty that I washed my feet in the sink after I took a shower.  I lived off chicken pot pies that I could heat in the microwave.  The high one day was a whopping -17 degrees and another was -20, but I saw spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis and I went to places you won’t see on an Alaskan cruise.  Cruises won’t take you to Beaver, Kobuk, or Alakaket.  We flew kerosene, gasoline, and propane.  When we weren’t flying fuel, we’d fly snow machines to these same remote villages.

I learned a lot on that trip, and will now summarize a few of those lessons:

  1. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, especially when you are that far north and that far away from civilization.
  2. Boots certified to 40 below don’t really work that well past -10.
  3. Always take shower shoes. If you can’t eat in the kitchen, you really don’t want to put your bare feet in the shower, either.
  4. People who live in remote villages work on a different timetable than those of us who like cities.  They won’t accept fuel during lunch hour or on weekends, but they’ll take a snow machine whenever you can get it there.
  5. When you’re in a different place with a different culture, don’t expect to feel perfectly at home. It takes an effort and you need to respect them.  When a native decides to give you a baseball cap, accept it with kindness and treasure it.
  6. A 2300’runway, covered in snow with mountains on either side, is a challenge when empty, but even more when the aircraft weighs about 50,000 pounds.
  7. Appreciate your ground crew. They are the ones who get to the airport at 0400 to put heating blankets on the engines.  Without them, you wouldn’t fly.  You don’t like to get up that early and you know you don’t like being that cold.
  8. To expand on #7, appreciate everyone and everything around you. We’re all in this world together so let us work together to make it a better place.  Together, we can.
  9. Remember this. Whatever it is, you can do this.  Whatever your situation, it is not worse than -27 and no ladies restroom (actually, no restroom) in Anektuvuk Pass, Alaska.  It will get better.  You will get to warmer weather.
  10. Look at life as an adventure. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience life and to meet new people.  Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you will gain a new perspective.

Finding these pages from my journal was a tremendous treat.  Sitting here warm and safe in our home in Macon, Georgia, I can’t believe I actually did it.  Am I the same person who took off that day for the trip of a lifetime?   Would I do it again?

I just don’t know.

September 11.

September 11. Home.   Not happy. I should be flying. Nothing to do but maybe I could go play golf. 8:45 a.m. I hate morning television shows but I go into the living room and turn on the TV to CBS. Before I’ve brewed my tea, the nightmare begins. My cousin calls first. Ken wants to know I was safe.  Phone calls continue throughout the day and night. No one can believe it.

Days earlier, I had been in Columbus, Ohio. “Please, Chris. Please! Let me go out early!” I begged and pleaded but the answer stayed the same. Chris said I needed to stay home. What did he know. I just wanted to fly. I was already going out on September 13, and I was wrapping up an extended tour. It was a game to work your schedule so you could fly on your off days and stay home on your work days. This meant $$$.

The airspace was reopened on September 13 but our passenger didn’t want to go. My copilot was a skinny guy from Alabama. The silence over the airways was deafening. I thought of “The Stand” by Stephen King, where everyone disappeared. Periodically we’d key the mic and ask ATC if they were still there. Yes, but quiet.

As we crossed over Richmond going into Baltimore, we were told to look out for close traffic on our wings. I never dreamed of a military escort, not in my wildest imagination. When we arrived at Baltimore, our identification was checked before we got off the plane. It was a somber day as we awaited our passenger, a senator from Wisconsin who was attending the memorial service. We could still see the smoke when we approached White Plains, a few days later.

Flying changed. My attitude towards flying changed. I had imagined being hijacked but I never imagined an aircraft being used as a weapon. Each time I went to Hartsfield to meet my aircraft, my luggage was searched. My underwear would be strewn out over the table, my uniforms pulled out and wadded up, and my battery operated toothbrush turned on. Nothing was ever put back correctly so I now had to allow extra time for repacking. That was minor, though, compared to the realization that we were no longer safe.

There are four days in my life that I will never forget. The day President Kennedy was shot, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and September 11, 2001. Of course I will always remember our wedding day and the birth of my children, and there are probably others, if I think about it. Each of these events changed the way I saw the world.

We can’t forget.