When we cross the country, in fact on most of our longer trips, I fly with some napping passengers. I’ll look in the back and Rudy will be reading a Piers Anthony book on his Kindle but Dexter’s head will be tipped against the window. Or Dexter will be watching 1776 (the musical) on his iPhone and Rudy will be out cold. Nell gets a lot of reading done in the plane (since her WiFi is dead on her laptop), and alternates chapters of whatever book she’s got with little five minute cat naps.

That means that at the end of the day I have spent hours and hours concerned about where to land if we lose the engine, what the cylinder head temperatures are, how we will select the FBO at the next stop, and whether the GPS system will be happy enough to navigate down through the clouds when we get there (RAIM check!). In short, I am exhausted and my passengers are usually rarin’ to go.

We are fortunate and are able to get two hotel rooms. I guess otherwise I would sleep on the balcony some evenings. But I’ll be out like a light while Nell wanders the far reaches of the Wichita airport’s industrial park for some sort of meal for the boys. And the boys will stay up watching television, which they don’t have at home. And Nell will answer a bunch of work-related email, work on her latest pilot script, and wait for the room to stop bouncing around like it is in light turbulence.

Click the photo to see a movie of us after our departure from Wichita (August 2010). The boys have silver windshield covers to block the sun and keep the heat gain down in the back. It also means the can watch movies if they have them aboard (we only had one this trip, for the very last leg into California), or rack out since they are usually wiped out from staying up late at the hotel.

For some reason during this summer’s flying I was very aware of the responsibility of carrying the entire family in my hands. Nell takes care of us for the entire year (including delicious breakfasts, Crepes Thursday, and trying to keep a green apple strategically positioned in front of Dexter, all while working in the soul-crushing business that the entertainment industry). Then for forty hours (sometimes eighty if we get to fly on Spring Break or Winter Break) our lives depend on me keeping my skills sharp, wits about me, and my judgement honed. Can we go through that light green on the XM NextRad? Looking out the window, are we safe heading through that canyon? Is the crosswind too much on this runway?

It’s all on me, and it sure keeps me wide awake while we are aloft.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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