Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in the back seat of a Cessna as my father flew again. Getting back in the left seat of a plane was a bucket list item for our favorite Navy pilot. For me it was a chance to see him in action flying and see the world from a different perspective.

Commercial flying offers stunning views from a 12″ oval window. I’ve sat in awe at views from 30,000 feet over New Brunswick and the landing over Boston Harbor at Logan Airport. I always try for a window seat on a red eye just so I can catch the sunrise. Flying in a Cessna is different. First, you feel much more connected to the mechanics of flying, even in the back seat. Everything is right there in front of you with instruments, controls and communication with the towers all part of your experience. And that experience! The views are close to 360 degrees, you’re flying over terrain you’ve known from the ground up, seeing it literally from a bird’s eye view at 2000-3500 feet max, and going a lot slower so can savor the view more.

We flew out of Lawrence Airport, followed the Merrimack River to the sea, turned northward following the beaches up to Portsmouth and then circled in for a touch and go at Pease International Airport before heading back to Lawrence, with a quick circle around the neighborhood in New Hampshire. Clear skies with some wind gusts making it interesting at lower altitudes. Listening to impressive banter between a flight instructor and a Navy pilot all the while. I kept my own chatter to a minimum; I was along for the ride, it was his experience… one I was happy to share.

This wasn’t my first flight in a Cessna. I’d flown a similar route with the father of a girlfriend in college once. He did all the work, while I sat in the right seat and my girlfriend sat in the back. I’d told myself I’d like to get my pilots license then, and here we are years later with the goal shelved. Money and time and other priorities killed that goal. We can’t do everything, can we? Perhaps not. Watching the Navy fly again reminded me that even the professionals get busy with other things. There’s a shortage of pilots it seems, and work for those who wish to pursue it. I don’t believe I’ll pursue it myself, but the hourly fees to fly with a pro aren’t outrageous. Why wait when the opportunity is so readily available? That’s what brought us here, and the day was a highlight reel of memories and a reminder to not put things off. For me it was a nice change of perspective, and I think my smile was as big as the pilot’s.

Merrimack River in Haverhill at Groveland Bridge
Salisbury Beach, surf’s up
Isle of Shoals
New Hampshire coast, looking north to Maine
Pierce Point, Portsmouth Country Club
Merrimack River