How I met Lucy
This love affair begins, strangely enough, with a very thoughtful wife.
It was Christmas of 1995 when I got a really cool present from Leslie. It was a lovely card, and inside was the simple message “You are going to learn how to fly.” At the not-so-tender age of 45, I was finally going to realize a life dream. She had pre-paid for flight lessons at a place called Galt Airport, near our home in Woodstock, Illinois. I had never been there, but was pretty sure this was going to be way cool.
You see, I grew up with a keen interest in airplanes and flying, but was never able to connect the dots. I even began college in aeronautical engineering, intending to design rockets and airplanes. But fate took a cruel turn. It was the early 70’s, and the aerospace industry took a nosedive. Remember the saying, “will the last one out of Seattle please turn out the lights?” Prospects were dismal for that kind of career, so I pursued advertising instead. I needed a job. So, I went to work in the marketing field, and simply lived vicariously in aviation through subscribing to Flying magazine and reading every issue cover to cover. Nice to dream, but that will never happen for me.
Then that fateful Christmas arrived. And I was soon introduced to the gang at Galt (One Zero Charlie, check out the book of same name by Laurence Gonzales), and a pretty ancient Cessna 150. I remember them discussing my options for flight instructors. Let’s see, there’s Earl, Jim, Matt and Bonny. Well, duh. Total no brainer. Soon afterwards, Bonny and I were in that 150, as I learned that the yoke does not turn the aircraft on the ground, and other fun stuff. I think we were about 3 hours into my training when Bob Russell, the airport manager at that time, pointed out an airplane parked in the weeds. “I think that airplane is for sale,” said Bob. “And it’s a good airplane.” I had my doubts. A 1967 Cherokee 180, with original paint (that which was left), delaminating wingtips, crazed windows and an interior that featured seats barely hanging on their metal frames and sidewalls that were pealing down like over-ripe banana skins. But it was an airplane, and to me, it was beautiful. Turns out the plane had been at Galt for many years, and was well known to the mechanic staff. The current owner was, to put it mildly, having some marriage difficulties and needed money. “This airplane is pretty low time, and is in good shape mechanically,” said Bob. “It has an engine with only 200 hours on it, and is IFR equipped. It’s just kind of ugly at this point, but that’s addressable.”
So Bob finds out the price, and I decide to start my own marriage difficulties and take the proposition to Leslie. She was amazingly amenable to the general idea. It made some sense to avoid renting and learn to fly in your own airplane. “Think of the money we’ll save” I exclaimed in my naiveté. “And an older airplane actually appreciates in value.” She was starting to buy-in, but of course, wanted to see the bird.
That was a day to remember. “He wants how much? For THAT?” I proceeded to explain that, like me, questionable looks can conceal a good heart. When I picked her up off the grass, she finally agreed to trust my judgment, and blessed the deal. She was being kind. I know she still had her grave doubts. But to her everlasting credit, she has never second guessed that decision, or made any complaint over the upkeep expenses over the years. Amazing woman.
We did the deal. But Leslie did, however, reserve naming rights. She decided on “Lucy.” I thought it was because the N number ends with “L.” Not so. Lucy was the name of FDR’s mistress (or so it is told). Since this airplane was going to suck up both my time and money, she felt it an appropriate name. She has been proven correct.
I did fly her ugly for a couple of years. All the sweat of primary training, then instrument training fell on that ugly interior. I needed a pillow to protect my derriere from the seat frame, but it worked out. Then, in 1998, we decided it was time to pretty her up. We did paint and interior at the same time, plus new windows and wingtips. Believe it or not, a complete strip, nice Imron paint job, and new leather interior cost a total of $10,500. Try that today.
3,300 + hours later, she remains with us. We moved to Colorado in August of 2019, and Lucy soon followed, ferried out here by a good friend who flies for United and liked to fly Lucy on occasion back home in Illinois. She, and I, are both happy here. However, like any mistress, she requires regular upkeep and the occasional bauble. New ADS-B in/out last year should keep her happy for a while. But she returns incredible pleasure, utility and satisfaction. Sure, my eye has been turned by the occasional wagging of fancy tails, or long foldy-uppy legs of newer birds. But I remain loyal. I think she is my first, and my last.