A Little Too Unusual
Flying|August 2021
After flying under a bridge too far...
MARTHA LUNKEN

It was a dark and stormy night; my electrical system had failed, and the battery was dead. Descending lower and lower in the murk, looking for familiar landmarks, I saw—dead ahead—the magnificent Jeremiah Morrow Bridge spanning the Little Miami River on Ohio’s Interstate 71. My only option was to fly beneath that high-and-wide span and make my way back home to Lunken Airport.

No—that’s a big, fat lie.

The unvarnished truth is: It was a pretty, early spring afternoon on March 2, 2020, and I was randomly boring holes into the sky, making takeoffs and landings at several small airports and planning to call Cincinnati Approach for a practice approach into Lunken. I did some bounces at a nontowered airport near Wilmington, but nobody was home, so I flew north a few miles to an old friend’s semi-abandoned private strip. He’s gone now after a tragic airplane accident, but I still land there sometimes and sit on the empty ramp, remembering and whispering a prayer for him. But that day, I was testing my mettle with a couple of landings on that narrow 32-foot-wide paved strip with a built-in crosswind. My “ arrivals” were less than elegant, so after the last jarring touchdown, I gave up and pointed the Cessna 180 west toward Oxford, Ohio.

Now I was in “Martha’s Vineyard,” nicknamed by Johnny Lane when he hired me as a fledgling flight instructor 50-some years ago. I’d use this area south of Lebanon for my students’ practice area while John worked with his to the north. To this day, it still feels like my backyard. Still pretty low, I glanced over my left shoulder at the expansive, recently rebuilt Jeremiah Morrow Bridge. And, friends, even now I can neither explain nor justify my impulsive, unpremeditated and spontaneous decision to fly underneath it. I do remember saying out loud, “Lord, I just have to do this before I’m too old to fly anymore.”

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