________ + AVIATION
Flying|March 2020
JUST ADD FLYING
Ben Younger

I have been hearing about the $100 hamburger since long before I had a pilot certificate. The phrase itself is meant to conjure up the absurdity/ passion surrounding aviation, but it always made perfect sense to me. The dream of becoming a pilot was not about access to remote and exotic locations, but rather to visit places I already knew—only to approach them from the air. Even precertificated, I knew that adding aviation to the familiar only sweetens the pot.

Let’s start with food. There’s a reason that overpriced burger is an aviation milestone. My theory is that having a “mission” makes a flight seem more urgent, more necessary and ultimately more defensible. Every pilot I know is just begging for an excuse to head to the airport. And eating is important. If you don’t do it, you will die. That is a fact. A flight in an airplane seems totally justified with such life-or-death stakes.

There’s a great lobster shack in Montauk, New York, where my friend Glenn lives. From my home upstate, it’s a five-hour drive—a worthy pilgrimage on the way there, a complete waste of time on the long road home. Weather permitting and Glenn willing, I fly east. This past summer, everything lined up, and I pulled the airplane from the hangar, excited to move from mountains to ocean in an hour’s time. I can recall crossing the Hudson River as I watched the New York skyline pass off my right wing, then following the long finger of Long Island eastward to land at the tricky field Montauk can sometimes be. After tying down my Beech Bonanza, I hopped in Glenn’s car, and 20 minutes later, we were eating warm, buttered lobster rolls. Glenn marveled that a phone call over breakfast quickly turned into lunch. He asked about the flight and the approach over the beach. He had heard (correctly) that the winds can get weird at Montauk with tall dunes near the runway. I played it down. Flying is normal, I told him. Mundane, even. It’s just like driving a car.

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