Thursday evening my son-in-law Bob took me up in his old Beechcraft Muskateer for a night flight over Winona. It was a perfect birthday present for me.
I had been up in a small aircraft just a few times and the prospects of a night flight in a single engine aircraft over an area that is predominately forest, rock cliffs and lakes (none of which make for a good night landing) caused me some private anxiety. I was hesitant to express this anxiety for two reasons; (1) Bob is my son-in-law and (2) he is a pilot for American Airlines!
The shared experience on a cold, clear winter night was more fantastic than I anticipated. When you get up in the air and look down on the clusters of lights that define small towns, there is a feeling of being alone in the universe. It is a feeling that pilots enjoy and the rest of us cherish whenever we can take advantage of the opportunity. This was also a super way to bond with my son-in-law. There is no greater appreciation a man can have for his son than to know that he has put his life in his son’s hands and has lived to talk about it!
We took off at the Winona airport and flew down the Mississippi river to La Crosse before heading west over Southeastern Minnesota to Rochester. We could look down and clearly see St. Charles, Utica and Eyota as they led toward the now small metropolis that houses the world famous Mayo Clinic. Looking up we could see the bright stars without the detriment of “light pollution.” They were bright as can be, causing me to regret that I didn’t more carefully remember the constellations.
As we headed back to Winona I took a shot of our island city, surrounded by the Mississippi river and its backwaters. Winona is beautiful in all seasons and at all times; now I’ve found another wonderful way to look at her; from the sky! Thanks for the great birthday present, Bob! It is a night that I will not forget!