By Jared McQuade
I have an unhealthy love for aviation. It has shaped my entire life. Whether it was going to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh every year since 1998, going to the EAA Air Academy twice as a kid, or getting my aviation degree at the University of North Dakota, aviation has always been there. With a love of aviation like that, you’d think it would be very difficult to interact with the general non-aviation public, let alone a significant other who wasn’t interested in aviation. Here is my story on how my significant other went from a person that had no real clue about aviation to someone who gets upset when I go flying without her and goes with me to every aviation event she can.
I met Patty at a Fighting Sioux Hockey game and we connected through our mutual love of the team during my time at the University of North Dakota. At first, I talked to Patty about how amazing Oshkosh was and shared my knowledge of way too many homebuilt aircraft. She thought Oshkosh was interesting and that was about it. That summer I took Patty for a flight in a family friend’s Cessna 150. Unfortunately, she wasn’t that impressed with flying just yet.
After college, Cirrus Aircraft gave me a chance and eventually I got a full time job there. It was during my time at Cirrus that Patty not only started getting into aviation, but accepting my love for it as well. In my mind, there were two things that year that made that happen.
The first was that Patty went with me to Oshkosh for her first time. I was a little apprehensive about having her go to Oshkosh with me, as I tend to be a madman there. One morning alone could involve a forum, a workshop, some reading, and visiting with owners of aircraft I thought were interesting. I really didn’t think Patty would enjoy my typical schedule, let alone trying to digest her first time at Oshkosh without my help while I was volunteering on the One Week Wonder. I was very wrong. Patty not only didn’t mind it, but found her own aviation things she wanted to see and learn about. There were three aircraft at Oshkosh that were essential in helping this happen. The first was the wonderful Burt Rutan design, the Long-EZ. The day before the official start of the show, Patty and I went out to the flightline.
She saw a few Long-EZ’s “grazing” and asked, “What is that and which way is the front?” That wonderful aircraft design started the whole week of asking questions and learning. After seeing the shark mouthed Curtiss P-40 Warhawk at the air show Patty demanded we go find it on the field. On the way to the P-40, we saw the North American B-25 Mitchell Panchito and she fell in love. Panchito was a character in a Disney cartoon she watched all the time when she was younger. Needless to say, we had to see those P-40s and Panchito every day for the rest of the show. She also enjoyed watching the air shows and we have not missed one since Patty’s first trip with me to Oshkosh.
The second thing that year that sparked her love was going flying with me. Although I had very little spare time, and even less spare money, I was able to start flying the Cirrus flying club aircraft. I took Patty on a short flight from Duluth to my hometown of Shell Lake, Wisconsin, in a Cirrus G3 SR20 to not only show her the joy of flying, but to visit my family. On that flight home, a few minutes before we landed, we had a wonderful view of a large Great Lakes freighter going under the Aerial Lift Bridge. It was then that I think Patty noticed that there is beauty in the air that you just can’t see or experience on the ground. After that flight there was no question in my mind that she had finally become an aviation person.
The next time at Oshkosh I was all hot and bothered over Burt Rutan revealing information about his new design, the SkiGull. Patty faithfully and without complaint went to every forum Burt Rutan had that year and even met him with me at the pig roast in Camp Scholler, which was one of the highlights of my life. We of course went to all the air shows and visited Panchito, the P-40s, and the warbirds area many times during that week. Patty also got a helicopter ride in one of EAA’s helicopters. By the time the week ended, there was no question this would not be Patty’s last time at Oshkosh.
After Oshkosh I had saved up enough money to buy a share in a local flying club, and started flying the club aircraft. Patty wanted to come with me every time I went flying. She started to like flying and aviation so much that I now get yelled at when I go flying without her. She also talks about what we need to see next time we’re at Oshkosh.
Now that I have shared my story I have some tips from my experience on someone wanting to get their significant other into aviation:
- Don’t tell them accident/near miss stories or make the crash jokes.
- Focus on the amazement, glory, and beauty of flight until they get hooked. The rules, regulations, and systems will only turn them away if you start with things as complex and confusing as those.
- They may not like the same aspects of aviation as you, but that’s okay. Getting someone new into any aspect of aviation is a win for aviation as a whole, even if it isn’t exactly the same aspect you like.
- Take them on sightseeing flights in smooth air often and early. You don’t want their first memory to be of a turbulence-filled flight.
- Encourage them to ask questions and not be afraid to look for answers. In addition to this, if you don’t know the answer say you don’t know and then help them find the answer. Encouraging curiosity is key.
- Bring them to a major air show. One like EAA AirVenture Oshkosh or SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo. Something that has plenty of resources to gain new knowledge, as well as experts to answer any questions they might have.