For a few weeks now, I have been studying for my FAA flight review and one evening, as I was watching John King discuss pressure and density altitude (every pilot knows the John and Martha King videos!) my mind wandered off and I started thinking about some of my favorite flying moments and in particular, this photo…
Which of course made me think of a favorite Jimmy Buffett quote and the inspiration behind the existence of this photo…
Landed in the water… just about my favorite thrill.
For as long as I have heard this song line it has held a certain mystique. For Jimmy Buffett, who has probably had many thrills, to say it is just about his favorite… well that endorsement is all it took for me to know someday I was going to land on the water.
This how that someday happened…
See, we were on vacation in Seattle and that very first day, as we walked around seeing all there is to see, it seemed like constantly overhead seaplanes were buzzing around. It was like they were tempting me and I was sure that in the sultry sound of their engines I could actually hear them saying, “come fly me!”
And I listened.
That evening, as soon as we got to the hotel room, I got on the laptop, researched two local seaplane operations, picked one and booked myself on a 4:30 flight the next afternoon.
I was going to land on the water!!!!
It was if Christmas was coming twice. The whole day of the flight I was like a kid. Already happily on vacation, there was just this wonderful additional element of excitement and anticipation. Then, when it was time, I bid adieu to the family at the EMP Museum and headed off on my 1.4 mile journey to the seaplane base. I was pumped!
Totally enjoying my walk to and around Lake Union I knew I was the happiest person in the world. Leaving with plenty of time to make the trip from the museum, I indulged myself in snapping photos and soaking in Seattle.
When I saw a seaplane base and a Cessna 206 on floats taxiing to the dock, my heart leaped. It wasn’t Kenmore Air, but I figured I must be getting close. I took a photo and kept walking.
The next seaplane base, the one I had reservations to fly from, was NOT just around the corner. Instead I had come to Terry Pettus Park and a dead-end.
I pulled out my phone and momentarily felt brilliant for storing Kenmore Air’s number into it as part of my preparations. I dialed.
Their phone was answered by a recording. I listened to the message and all the prompts and pushed the number I thought gave me the best chance to reach a human. Three minutes of recorded hell later, still no human.
All the while I was looking at my watch. The cushion I had given myself to get there was quickly disappearing. The flight was leaving in 20 minutes and I had absolutely NO IDEA where they were in relation to where I was!
Panic was trying to replace excitement.
“No! I am not giving up that easily.” I thought to myself.
“William.” I then said. With the family still at the music museum they weren’t going to be able to help. So I called my buddy William.
Quickly, I briefed him on the situation and he looked up Kenmore Air’s address and said,
“950 Westlake Avenue North”
His words hung.
WESTlake Avenue. I was on EAST Fairview Avenue. I had google-mapped the WRONG seaplane operator’s address! Which meant that…
I was on THE WRONG SIDE OF THE FUCKING LAKE!
The flight was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes and I was more than a mile away!
“I gotta go!” I half cried, half yelled into the phone.
With no taxis in sight, I did the only thing I could… I ran. I ran with more purpose than any 5K I have ever run in.
Ten minutes later, and five minutes before the flight, panting and covered in sweat, I walked into the terminal of Kenmore Air.
“You must be Charlotte.” The lady behind the counter said to me.
“What in the world?” I thought to myself.
“William called and told me you were on your way. I knew it had to be you.” She told me with a smile on her face while getting me a glass of water. “We slowed boarding for you. Go right on outside, they are waiting for you.”
As I was running, William had been texting me. Unable to run and read his texts, I didn’t know he had called Kenmore Air to tell them about my situation. It’s good having a friend who’s got my back.
So out to the dock I went. My heart rate was high both from the run and because I was about to board a 1951 de Havilland Otter. Then, to make an already eventful afternoon more exciting, once I popped my head in the airplane and was about to take the last remaining seat in the cabin, the pilot asked if anybody wanted to sit right seat next to him.
Bolting straight up, I left no time for anyone to even PONDER the idea of sitting in the cockpit. So, not only was I about to land on the water, I was going to from the right seat.
I felt blessed.
Here are some of my favorite photos of my 20 minutes in heaven.
A look at my logbook says I have landed an airplane 468 times and there have been many thrills…
My first solo landing was a thrill.
The grass strip landing I did, the one when my tailwheel instructor who, being an old army guy, rarely had a positive word to say, looked at me and said, “That was ridiculously good” was a thrill.
And now, even though it can’t be in the logbook, landing on the water, just as Jimmy said, is “just about my greatest thrill.”
As soon as I push the Publish button I am outa here. I am heading to the airport to go flying. Yep, I am going to go log some landings, for just the opportunity to be in an airplane and at the controls is a thrill.
I hope you get to do something thrilling today!
postscript: 3 landings today… now up to 471.