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Angels high: A Gift Of Wings
In my flying experience I spent hundreds of hours flying in formation. I had been trained as a kid by Nick Daniels of the British Rothman's Aerobatic Team.
Formation flying was something that gave me the feeling of closeness to our feathered brethren of the skies. Aerobatics and formation flight were among the greatest benefits I enjoyed from my gift of wings.
May I tell about day I flew my ancient tail draggerairplane as part of a formation of Canada Geese taking off from the north runway at Toronto Island Airport (YKZ). I will never forget this for as long as I live. Read on.
My aircraft was an old Alaskan bush plane with huge fowler flaps and a fine-pitch propeller. It was a STOL aircraft capable of very slow flight. I was using it to tow aerial banners out of the Island airport for the CHIN Annual Multicultural Picnic on Toronto Island.
That day I had flown down to Hamilton International Airport to participate in the annual Father's Day Airshow for the Canadian Warplane Heritage.
I had twenty banners to fly in Toronto that afternoon. I would lay out the 300 meter banners on the grass; take off; and hook the tow rope with the tail of the airplane as I swooped down and then went screaming skyward to haul the heavy signs into the air.
The advertisers paid me a lot of money to do this banner towing.
One thing nobody ever knew was that the south field of the island airport did not belong to me, it was shared with hundreds of Canada Geese. These are majestic birds.
I am Vegan. That means I never eat milk, eggs, cheese, meat or anything from a living creature. Why is that important? Birds and animals can sense which creatures around them are carnivores. Carnivores actually smell like meat eating creatures. I don't. Animals trust me instinctively although they might stare me down if I was grazing on a choice piece of their greenery turf.... ;o)
The Canada Geese of Toronto Island Airport's south field were my friends. I would walk from one end to another of a stretched out aerial banner changing letters and making ready for the banner pick-up. The birds would follow or march right alongside. They seemed to have an interest in everything I would do. For whatever reason, this is how my life has gone. I have always been a friend of birds and my enormous fascination for these amazing feathered creatures has never waned.
When I would go to the big old tail-dragger aircraft parked on the grass at the edge of Juliet taxi-way, they would literally run away from the area the banner was laid out on... they knew what was coming next as I fired up the engine and went roaring down the runway to come around and snatch those huge banners into the skies..
I had worked hard that day. Nearly exhausted by late afternoon I had been in the air for at least 9.8 of the 16 hours, logging more than 30 take-offs and landings and over 20 banner pick-ups and releases. I also did the unrolling and setup of new banners and recovery of the dropped signs. That's a lot of work.
It felt good to sit back in the pilot's seat on the button of runway 33 with the left window partially open and a light breeze cooling my forehead.
I was heading back to my home base at Maple Airport.
Frank, in the Island control tower cleared me for take-off and warned me that hundreds of Canada Geese had gathered around me as I sat there in the numbers of 33.
These large birds surrounding me were my friends. We had spent thousands of hours together.
I locked the wheels and applied full throttle, then grabbed the Johnson bar and dropped 30 degrees of the huge fowler flaps.
I was in STOL elevator mode.
Thinking that I would climb fast with my nose down in the light headwind, I would be making certain to avoid bird-strikes that could hurt these babies of mine.
I released the wheel brakes and lunged forward with the tail wheel up. At the same time the birds took flight.
Some of my winged friends were just outside the prop-wash but still under my wings. I heard heir calls to each other through the open window, despite the engine's roar and the swoosh of the propwash which was now down to a dull roar as I eased the throttle back. We all took off in tight formation.
As I rose at first about 200 feet per minute I backed off the throttle even more and carefully trimmed to stay in formation with the leader now heading a large V with me in the middle.
I looked left and right, my hands on the controls almost shaking with excitement. What an honour this was. They had invited me to join them in flight.
The formation of birds and I were one with the great blue sky and a golden setting sun. The water of Lake Ontario glistened below. My heart and mind had melted into a total concentration in the moment.
This and what happened next was the most humbling experience of my life. These majestic creatures seemed to be truly my friends.
From my headset I heard Frank in the tower broadcast his softly whispered admiration for the sight he was seeing. "Oh my God".
Yes. There was a sense of there being a Goddess. Our departure from Earth must have looked both bewildering and awe inspiring from a distance.
That's the main part of my story. The rest I will tell you in person.
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