Vanishing Earth
Flying|August 2017

An Uneventful Flight Takes a Sudden Turn

Roger Keech

This is an old story, but it’s one I still think about often. In January 1960, I found myself in the right seat of an 85 hp Luscombe 8F on top of a thick layer of smog blanketing the infamous Los Angeles basin, the setting sun perilously close to the western horizon. The pilot, my dad, known for his casual attitude toward the weather, had pushed our return flight from Oakland beyond the limit of our combined abilities.

Although I had first soloed just two weeks before, my dad had literally grown up in the aviation industry. In his teens he built a glider and worked with aviation pioneer Glen Martin. World War I changed his career path, but in 1938 he took up flying. Typical of him, Dad soloed himself when his instructor failed to show up for that crucial lesson. He then managed to accumulate 370 hours in his Luscombe 8A before World War II shut down all general aviation flying within 100 miles of the Pacific coast.

Dad naturally wanted to witness my first solo flight. When he heard that our flying club had a Luscombe he decided to join and get back into the air. Although he had logged only 20 hours in the previous 19 years, at age 66 he checked out in just three hours dual. Now he wanted to spread his wings again, and talked me into flying with him to visit a friend in Oakland. Having flown with him as a child, I couldn’t refuse.

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