Dec 012014
United Airlines Boeing 727

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I walked across the asphalt and stood looking up the enormous flight of stairs. I lurched over each step as the bottom of my suitcase thwacked up against each one. I entered this cylindrical pterodactyl with tremendous uncertainty of what to expect. A lady greeted me and pointed to my seat directly behind me and asked that I wait there for a bit. I plopped and looked up above, then down where my forearm was laying on the armrest. A tiny placard read: Seat 1A.

I peered out the window, my big green eyes blinking into the morning sky, where I could see my dad standing on the tarmac waving at me. My smile beamed with comfort as this would be the first time ever in my life away from him. Then an imposing, sharply dressed man in dark slacks, a crisp white button-up shirt and tie was standing before me and said, “Hi, I’m the Captain, you can come with me and sit in the cabin with the crew.” I gave one last glance through the window at my dad then followed the man. I stepped into this cavernous wonderland as I caught my breath and my eyes widened with amazement.

United Airlines Boeing 727 Cockpit

United 727 Cockpit via

All of gadgets, gauges, levers, buttons, side by side yolks (an airplane’s “steering wheel”) and lots of windows that curved around both sides made this the most amazing place I had ever been in the whole world. The man said I could have a seat in this large comfortable chair while they had some work to do but would explain each step as they were talking.

I was 6 years old and in the jump seat of a United Airlines Boeing 727 cockpit.

Soon, I was led back to my seat before take off. A beautiful woman approached me with concerned, yet soft eyes and a smile to make anyone relax. She said, “Hi Mike, I’m Gloria and we are glad you are here to Fly the Friendly Skies with us today.” I thought to myself that I so hoped she would also be my next babysitter!

United Airlines Stewardess 1970's

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She made sure my seatbelt was fastened snuggly and were on the taxiing for the runway. My first time on an airplane and I was by myself. The plane powered up, my heart was pounding out against my chest and my wee little fingers had a death grip on the armrests. My eyes were glued out the window as I saw the ground and buildings zipping by faster and faster. More power, faster and faster, as I was thrust back into my seat. The front of the plane began to lift then I felt completely weightless. I was floating in the air like a spaceman! I would reflect back with excited tears of that moment 44 years later.

The trees and cars became smaller and smaller. I peered back down as hard as I could, hoping to see my Dad but was unable to. I looked back and saw the stewardess ( it’s the 1970’s folks) staring at me with a smile. She winked and said, “Isn’t this fun, Mike?!” I nodded my head with approval and finally a smile burst across my face. I was flying from Sacramento to Reno to meet my aunt and uncle. A lifelong love of flying was born within me that day. And of the sensation of speed which would reveal itself a few years later.

1976, I was with my dad again on a beautiful Spring afternoon standing on the airport tarmac. He triple checked to make sure I was fastened securely. Several buckles, around my arms and up and under my groin around to my back. This time I would be getting on an airplane with different luggage.

A parachute pack.

He went through all of the preflight check with me on exiting the plane safely at what would likely be over 100 miles an hour. To make sure I was clear of the airplane before pulling the ripcord. No, I was not going skydiving. Instead, my dad was taking me on one of his aerobatic practice flights for my first time. The parachute was in case there was fatal, unrecoverable failure with the airplane. That apprehensive little boy six years prior was now a flying addict. My dad had become a private pilot and taught me how to fly.

Cessna 152 Aerobat

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The power of a Cessna 152 Aerobat is dwarfed in power comparison to a Boeing 727 with a cruising speed of 120 miles per hour compared to 570 mph. There were only 315 of the little planes made but they were especially designed to handle numerous aerobatic maneuvers including: aileron rolls, lazy eights, loops, steep turns, Immelmann turns, spins, snap rolls, chandelles, vertical reversements, barrel rolls and stalls. Not a stall with the engine actually stopping. Though he did teach me what do a couple of times with a complete power shut off. And let me tell you…that is one heckuv a pray to the heavens moment. The entire experience of those years was so much fun.

Cessna 152 Aerobat Loop

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It would be 18 years later in 1994, with a few commercial flights here and there since those days of flying with my dad that I would meet the girl that I would marry. She worked for the airlines and I would end up flying virtually every other weekend for next few years. Many short trips that could be done in 2-3 days roundtrip. There were longer trips to Mexico, Canada and Hawaii. A couple of trips just for fun across country and right back in one day. Just for the sake of doing it.

Because I wanted to fly whenever I could.

The airports were so easy to navigate through and I never gave a thought second thought to any fears. Flying was in my blood. I was raised with it.

Then two life events occurred with my life that would change that course. The first was at 8:46 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. As the months and years started to go on after that day I became more insecure and unsure of flying and I would not get on another plane. The second being that my own inner life anxiety increased and worsened even affecting my social life. That was remedied the last week of July 2003 when I brought home a savior into my life. My Golden Retriever, Phoenix. It soon became obvious to me that I would never leave him though I never openly admitted that to anyone. On August 25th of this year, 2014, I would no longer have the latter as an excuse.

The last week of September my best friend, the one who has always been there for me my entire life…my aunt…called me one night. She, a continual world traveler, said to me, “Hey honey, how about you and I go on a quick trip in October? As in, on an airplane.”

To be continued…

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Mike Vogler

I have been told (many times) that I really need to write a book about my life. The past 50+ years have been an exciting ride, and these days I find myself with a great many passions. However, I feel that this website is a much more personal way with which to share my musings, stories and commentary.

  74 Responses to “When This Little Boy Learned To Love To Fly”

  1. I had no idea about your extensive flying history! To be sure, flying has been a different, more difficult experience since 9-11, and not much talk of “the friendly skies”, but it is still awesome that you can get on a plane in New York City, hurtle through space and be in Johannesburg, South Africa 16 hours later. I don’t love flying, but I enjoy being able to travel half way around the world in less than 24 hours. Acquiring the capacity for motorized flight in the early 20th century was definitely a game changer for human civilization. I hope you’ll keep your wings!

    • I was thinking of that exact same thing just last night, Suzanne. That one of my friends (bloggers included) can send me an email from their hometown here in the U.S. and be halfway around the world by the end of the day. I will never stop feeling that is the coolest thing 🙂

  2. It must be an amazing feeling to fly, especially in a smaller aircraft! I think it gives you a sense of freedom that you can only grasp once you’ve experienced it yourself. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Can’t wait to hear about your next flying adventure.

    • The small plane definitely gives you a feeling of really being in the air because in some regards you are far more vulnerable to Mother Nature. It’s lots of fun until you hit bad weather but the aircraft are incredibly resilient and sturdy, Melissa 🙂

  3. Oh wow Mike… What a story. I had no idea about any of this… THank you for sharing. I can’t wait to find out if you went to visit your aunt.

    Isn’t it amazing how much we change during our lives….

  4. I had no idea that you had travelled by air so much. Really. Hawaii by far was my favourite place to visit, but by far the worst traveling experience. Holy crap the plane ride. Just. Holy. Crap.
    Mexico was a close second.
    I like you, and I know for so many hundreds of people, feel the same way after 9/11. Assholes.

  5. Beautiful story, Mike 🙂

  6. This was a fascinating read and you captured the very essence of flying so well, MIke! I hope you have rekindled that love of flying. My first flight was at age 4 and I’ve been hooked ever since. 🙂 Granted, since 9/11, the draconian security and decrease in amenities (not to mention skyrocketing fares) has lessened the enjoyment, but to me, it’s still a grand adventure. Thanks for sharing these snippets of your life with us.

  7. Wow! How cool to have been able to fly so much!!! This only goes to confirm how brave and fearless you are. I hope that passion gets reignited. You had a great excuse with your saviour before, but you can’t let the f******g 9/11 twats win!!!

    • Hey what wonderful, positive encouragement and thank you, Kemkem! And thank you for mentioning kiddo. You are spot on with not letting the bad guys ever win 🙂

  8. Wow what a cool story 🙂 I’ve always been fascinated with flying but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to be a pilot 😛

    • You are very adventurous, Michelle, so I think you would be surprised at how exhilarating it is to pilot a plane! 🙂

  9. I learn something new about you in just about every post! I had no idea that you know how to fly planes – wow! My dad was an officer in the Airforce (albeit he was not a soldier or pilot), so I have lots of childhood memories of flying hops on windowless C30s. And I remember one time on a flight with my dad, the captain let us in the cockpit during the landing. I loved airplanes, and to this day, I still love a good air show (I really love fighter planes). But like you, my feelings about flying changed on 9/11. I haven’t let it stop me from flying (obviously) because I love to travel and have to have traveling experiences abroad in my life, but now, I’m not really into flying itself. It’s just a necessary evil so to speak. I’m glad that your aunt got you back on a plane – was this the trip when you said that you flew over Crater Lake? Looking forward to your next post…

    • I have an INCREDIBLE infatuation with both modern and old war era fighter planes, Dana! That would have been an absolute blast with your dad and flying on those hops! It’s easy to rationalize numerically how incredibly safe it still is to fly. Yet, that lingering thought in the back of person’s head, ya know? I would enjoy hearing more of your flying stories with your dad as well 🙂

  10. I felt like I was on that plane with you, Mike! I’m not surprised you married a pretty Flight Attendant 😉 that is so cool that you learned to fly with your Dad. I can’t wait to read part 2. I think Phoenix whispered in your Aunt’s ear.

    • Hmm…I didn’t mention she was pretty….but she was absolutely gorgeous, Lisa! 🙂 Still haven’t figured out whether or not to put her pic on my blog yet or not. I totally agree with you on Phoenix too 🙂

  11. I know you said you used to fly a lot more, but did not realise just how often and how much you loved it! So glad you managed to find the courage to give it another go, and excited to hear how it went 🙂

  12. Mike,
    can’t wait to hear more, dear.
    So interesting!!!

    xxx LOVE. WOW!

    Ps. I was 18 on my first flight to Laguna Beach, CAL. What a trip!!

  13. Thanks for sharing your memories and I look forward to Part 2. I wish I could say otherwise but I am someone who finds no enjoyment in flying – whatsoever – but it gets me to where I want to go. If only they’d construct a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean, I could take the world’s longest road trip. I think the scenery might get a little monotonous and there probably wouldn’t be too many rest stops along the way. Alas… I will have to keep flying. 😉

    • You are definitely among a lot of company of those that do no like to fly. How about a super high speed rail trail over The Pond?? Or better yet let’s go the Star Trek path and we can beam to destinations. Wouldn’t that be great? 🙂

  14. I had no idea about this history you have with planes, how fascinating!!
    I love this story… can’t wait for the rest to be published. 😉

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to continuing the story, Colleen. The “to be continued…” I borrowed from you, my dear 🙂

  15. Bam! Sometimes we just gotta do the things we’ve built-up tons of anxiety about. I remember you posting about your trip briefly on Facebook and am looking forward to seeing how it all went. Your aunt is awesome. Sometimes it just takes that one little nudge.

    • I agree with you 100% on addressing fears, Jeri! And we can find out the most interesting answers as to that which we thought we feared…we didn’t. Or it was about something else altogether 🙂

  16. Hi Mike,

    Those are lovely memories!! So adventurous! The thrill of flying is so different each time but learning to fly!! wow! that is a privilege. I am looking forward to the next part of the story and will wait eagerly for that picture of the ‘gorgeous lady’.

    Thanks for sharing awesome memories!

    • You said it wonderfully, Balroop…it was a priveldge and honor my dad taught me how to fly back then. It would have been so fun to continue on that way but no affordable on a paper route salary 🙂 Ha, ha…sorry there will be no picks of my aunt! 🙂

  17. Hmm… suspenseful!
    We just booked plane tickets to Florida in January and I’m not very good at planes. It depends. Sometimes I can really just sit back and realize how miraculous and kinda fun it is. Other times, not so much.
    We shall see!

    • That’s so ironic as I was thinking of flying somewhere…ANYWHERE….warm and nice next month. But, I’m building up my time off right now. I know you will do great on the flights coming and going and sending lots of positive thoughts to you for that, Tamara! 🙂

  18. I can’t believe you left us hanging light that… *sigh* …I hate waiting. Post quicker, pretty please! This was a wonderful portrait painted with words!!

    My mom owned a Piper J-3 Cub in her mid-20’s. She went on to train young pilots during the war in what was the forerunner to today’s flight simulators, a Link Trainer . She loved flying. I hope you’ve found your way back.

    • I know, I know….I’m such a tease huh, Nan? Ah, another background on flying from a friend. I would love to hear more of those stories on the Piper Cub! 🙂

  19. The ‘cylindrical pterodacty’ is an awesome description. I love it. Wow I like reading through your history with planes, flying and all that. I am looking forward to the story continuing Mike.

    • Interesting how incredibly large things can seem to us when we are 6 years old huh, Bintu 🙂

  20. Oh Mike, I never realised how much you used to love flying,…..and you were married? Come on you can’t leave Part 2 for much longer please!!!
    I guess the thing that scared you so much was the twin towers?
    Or is there something else. And your best friend is still with you, Phoenix is now looking after you from Heaven.
    Oh I so wish I could give you a hug xxxx
    Can’t wait for Part 2, hey when are you going to write that book?

    • Yes, I was married for a very brief moment in time 20 years ago ! I don’t know on the answer on the book but hugs are most definitely welcomed, Lisa! 🙂

  21. So glad you shared this story with us, Mike! I remember you saying at one point how you didn’t like flying (hence the post 9-11 and leaving your bff at the end of the post), so I was fascinated to read how much you enjoyed it when you were younger! I’m so glad your aunt convinced you to go on a trip, on an airplane no less! Excited to read the next chapter of this story…!:-)

    • I’m glad she convinced me too, Jess, and now “we” just need to get me on plane AGAIN! 🙂

  22. What a lovely story full of nostalgia! I always loved flying, I always feel really sorry for people who have a fear of it!

    • It’s tough for folks who need to fly or want to fly but have that fear, Becky. And it’s very real to them and difficult to overcome. Great to hear from you 🙂

  23. What a wonderful story, and so full of fabulous images to conjure up as we read it. Definitely time for you to spread your wings again, and how lovely to have such a very dear Aunt to suggest it. Hope you are going somewhere nice.

  24. Great story.. so Many memories . Cant wait for the next post!!

  25. I am loving this story so far – can’t wait to read the rest!

    My little boy got to see a cockpit at about age 6, too, though I watched him like a hawk – without social situation inhibitions, it was not out of the realm of possibility that he would push buttons and flip switches, lol!

    • I hope you will enjoy the thread as it will continue for a bit, Elizabeth. That is so awesome that your son got to sit in the cockpit! Hey, I would be no better now than I was at 6 and would love to push buttons and flip switches too lol! 🙂

  26. OMG MIKE! I had no idea about your flying history. I’d always assumed that you’d never really flown and that that was why you had so much anxiety about your last trip and cancelled Denver and all of that. WOW. I, too, was given a love of flying at a young age. My dad’s business partner had a pilot’s license and I remember flying over our house in a Piper trying to identify the streets… I’d always flown. When it comes to the pups, though… there was one flight I took with Chief that was horrible and I promised God I’d never fly with him again and I didn’t. Instead, I drove the 26 hours from DC to Denver when I first moved here with my buddy. Oh I love this post!!! And heres to flying again, my lovely sweets. xxoo.

    • As far me…just keep peeling back the layers of the onion, Kristi. There is even more depth and life experiences to Mike than you already have learned 🙂 I loved the story of you flying and especially with Chief. So, you had him in the cabin with you??? I hope you are having a good day! 🙂

  27. What wonderful memories! I would still love to sit in an airplane cockpit if I could. Can’t wait to read the next part 🙂

    • Yes, it is amazing to be in the cockpit of a commercial airliner. You can do virtual tours online on the Internet – they are all over the place. I love ’em 🙂

  28. Wow, what a story! I had no idea you had such a long history with flying. I can’t wait to hear the next part!

  29. I can’t imagine what it must be like to control an airplane – it must be exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I hope you resumed flying – it’s such a part of how you are and where you’ve been. I’ll stay tuned!

    • While I’m no longer piloting planes as it was self teaching through my Dad….it was absolutely exhilarating. After awhile I would get more calm without the worry. Yet, “you” always had be alert. It’s not like you are up there with the top down and cranking “California Dreamin'”…though I sure wanted to lol! 🙂 Have a great weekend, Dana! 🙂

  30. Sitting in the cockpit must have made such an impression on you as a young boy. What an experience! As someone who trembles at the slightest turbulence in-flight, I am especially impressed with you and your dad doing tricks with the acrobatic plane. Wow. My husband has been flying for quite a few decades now, and he commented on how many stops they used to have to take to get from Texas to Europe just to refuel. Air travel has certainly changed — in both good ways and bad. I can’t wait to hear where you’re headed.

    • You absolutely nailed it, Michele, with how much things have changed Your husband’s example is a poster for that in the refueling example. Now look…they fly for 18 hours non-stop around the globe. It just boggles the mind. I hope all is well with you and the kids! 🙂

  31. I saw you had uploaded two new stories since my last visit, and now I can’t wait to move on to the sequel:) It’s so great to discover new aspects of online friends:)

    • Well I’m thrilled that you were excited to get caught up on my recent posts, Mette! I always appreciate your support so very much 🙂

  32. Love this life story Mike. It is amazing that you flew so often and even sky jumped. I am off to read the next instalment now.

  33. I remember meeting the captain and getting my “wings” when I was a kid. I was around 10 years old my first flight which was to Disney. I have never had a problem with flying. Good thing because once I hit 12 I had to fly alone to see my father out of state, a couple times a year.

    • It was such a blast flying when we were kids wasn’t it, Krystle?? Lordy I miss those days! I know you understand 🙂

  34. I love reading about little Mike and picturing his happy face as he’s flying, and looking back at the stewardess! You devil! ;0)

    I don’t recall where I would fly as a little kid, probably to San Jose to stay with my Godparents or somewhere with my Aunt and Uncle. But I remember asking for the wings! I think you would get either red or blue. And I thought it was a treat because we got to order a soda!

    Looking forward to the next read!

    • Ha, yes the soda…great recollection, Tony! Mine was always 7-Up. Isn’t amazing how many places we can NOT fly non-stop to out of Reno anymore? Arghh..

  35. I knew you traveled around years ago, I never knew however that you were such a flying addict and that your dad was a private pilot. wow that must have been really cool. Going to read the next installment now 🙂

    • Oh flying with my dad was so much fun, Freya, You just drive to the airport, park and hop in the plane parked a mere 40 feet away 🙂

  36. I love learning about this part of your life, Mike. What a great experience it must have been to sit with the captains on such a huge plane. And an even greater experience to fly your own plane. How cool is that! I really hope you’re going to take your aunt up on that offer and venture to Germany or Austria (where these the two places she picked for you or is this the same aunt?) Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    • Ah yes, the same aunt (and only aunt), but there is no offer from her to actually GO with me unfortunately. This Seattle trip was a once in a lifetime trip with her and I will remember it forever. I did so love my early experiences flying with my dad, Mary! 🙂

  37. I’ve got goose bumps reading this story Mike…
    What a great experience for a little boy! And, what extensive flying history you have. That’s amazing!
    I was always captivated by planes and I was so eager to go on my first trip. It happened when I was 19. I always loved the idea of flying, being in a plane,

    • I LOVE to fly, Rita! It’s the other stuff before and after flying that now causes me anxiety. I would enjoy hearing the story of your first plane trip! 🙂

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