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Friday Sunset

© 2005, Ed Wischmeyer

Sunset on Friday, the first Friday of July. It was two weeks and a day ago that Mom breathed her last.

While in the ICU the second time, and then after that in a regular hospital room for hospice, her breathing was aggressive – sharp inhalations and exhalations, forceful, no pause between breaths, as if recovering from a race, neither a marathon nor a sprint, but a hard run middle distance.

“In Lieu of Flowers” is one woman’s story of death in her family, of connections with parents, of lingering, dwindling, dying connections caused by Alzheimer’s, of brief, deep connections with parents immediately before death, of farewell visits by the departed days or weeks afterwards. I have just read the first 54 pages.

I am on the way out to my “fort,” the front room of the miniature guest apartment at the end of the detached garage, inwardly pressured to go right now to be still before God, and to receive whatever spirits may be calling.

I flatter myself by comparing my fort to the shack where Ernest K. Gann wrote his aviation classics with a paucity of technology and a paunch of experience, attributes I possess inversely. I am going out to the fort, eventually to prepare for tomorrow’s flying and writing, but for now, just to be, to be silent, to be receptive.

At the edge of the back porch, not yet one step down the stairs towards the fort, I hear the deep rumble of an Allison engine, unmuffled, in a perfect, homebuilt replica Spitfire, one that lives in the next hangar over from mine. The sound of the engine is thick, seemingly too thick, without the bark and bite of an original Merlin engine.

The Spitfire is brilliantly lit above in the sun, perfectly photogenic, the sun not yet having set up there as down here. On its belly, the red beacon throbs. The timing is perfect to the fraction of a second.

The Spitfire turns slightly, and the light fades from its sides. It heads west. The sound disappears.

Mom always supported my interest in airplanes. When I was a boy, Mom would frequently drive me out to one of the local airports, and read or do who knows what while I explored nirvana.

Mom’s middle name was her grandmother’s maiden name. Three generations since share this uncommon name. I have only encountered it once elsewhere, from someone of no relation at all.

The only person I know who shares this name is the pilot of the replica Spitfire.

Great User Manuals

Flying the ILS - Technical Manual - Using a complex flight display (pdf)
Good Judgment - Safety Manual - For owner-pilots new to jet flying

Professional Papers

The Myth of the Unstable Approach Airline Safety Conference - old data, new results, future directions (pdf)
Why'd they do that? (PEEMBO ) - Airline Safety Conference - new pilot accident psychology model (pdf)
1,001 Runway Incursions - Systems engineering gives pointed results. Avn Psychology Conference - (pdf)
In Search of Collegiate Flight "Education" - Opinion Piece - why aviation colleges produce poor quality flight instructors

Feature Articles

Biplane Boot Camp - First person - learning to land a biplane (3MB pdf)
F1 Rocket - Pilot Report - flying a 250 mph sport airplane
Vimy - First Person - riding in a WWI bomber I helped build
Wiring Your Panel - Technical reporting - wiring your airplane's instrument panel, yourself (pdf)
Katrina Mississippi Christmas - Reporting - volunteers help out

Aviation Safety Articles

Scud Running - dangers in flying low in bad weather
Finding an adaptable instructor for homebuilt airplane pilots
Report cards for homebuilt airplanes should say... what?

Short Articles

Drake, AZ - Short feature - It's in the road atlas, but is anything there?
Friday Sunset - Memoir - two weeks after Mom passed away
Ed walking his dog near Granite Mountain