The unique and revealing story of a modest man who made a major contribution.

University of Toronto Page 42

The Fight for Flight - page 42

From the book "Astonishing Luck"

University of Toronto

Credentials in hand, Dad applied yet again and this time was accepted. He promptly quit his job with the mine and headed for the University of Toronto.

"I went down and got a job at Canada Bread to make enough money to eat and rent a room. Then down to the college I went. That got the door open."

Once there he faced the formidable academic challenge of taking a 'review of five subjects', four of which he had never taken in high school and the fifth he had taken but at a much less challenging level. He hit the books like never before and through his focus and commitment coupled with his review of the constant sample tests they gave - some barely passed and others failed - managed to pass the course.

"So, that was some do!

"But I passed finally. I lost eighteen pounds on that three months and passed with eighty-four per cent. It was like going through five years of high school in three months on those five subjects.

"It's amazing what you can do if you have the desire."

On one occasion, while reviewing one of these sample tests with the professor, mention was made of the professor's own desire to fly. He apparently had wanted to get in 'Air Crew' but having a club foot was unable to pass the medical.

Asking him about his flying experience and hearing the professor sadly express his deep regret over never actually having flown in a plane, Dad told him they could easily rectify that.

"Meet me down at the Island Airport on Sunday morning and I'll take you for a flight."

Dad arrived bright and early on the Sunday morning and never having been to the airport before followed the usual procedure for renting an aircraft by presenting his 'Pilot's license and Log Book' to the Airport's Chief Pilot - a woman.

This was the first time he had ever met a woman pilot.

Having never seen him before she was sceptical of his stated experience - considering he looked too young to have accumulated the hours he spoke of. They would definitely need to take a flight together allowing her to evaluate his flying skills before she would ever consider renting any plane to him.

Out to the plane they went and in they climbed. After a successful take-off, she told him to turn out over the lake - just to be safe. They did some slow turns, course heading and altitude changes, a stall or two and with everything going smoothly she had him set a course back to the airport. His approach was at 1500 feet above and down the length of the runway.

To Dad's surprise as they neared the runway, and still at 1500 feet, she said,
"Take her in."
Being so close to the end of the runway Dad felt there was,
"no time for hesitation",
and immediately responded to her request.

"With her saying to 'take her in' at this point in our approach, I immediately closed the throttle and threw the plane into a 750 foot side slip one way, then 750 the opposite way, rounded out, levelled off and greased her on the runway.

"I had heard her gasp when I closed the throttle, but concentrating on the landing I paid no attention to her until we touched down. Safely down and starting to roll along the runway, I turned to look at her and realised she was only then able to catch a breath.

"Inhaling deeply she exclaimed, 'Jesus Christ ! I meant for you to go around again and land. I've never seen anything like it. But the landing was beautiful! Where did you learn to make an approach like that?'

"'Up north we do it all the time,' I said, 'side slipping down over the 400 foot ridges and trees to get in and land on the lakes. To tell you the truth when we took off I was a little concerned about the landing. If you wanted a straight in approach - I've never done one!

"'Well, I won't worry about you', she replied.

"The professor was waiting when we got back and was thrilled with his flight - especially when I let him take the controls and get the feel of piloting the aircraft."

Not only was this the first time Dad had met a 'woman pilot', it was the first time he'd ever heard a woman swear! He would laugh about it whenever he told this story - how the landing he found perfectly normal had shocked her to the extent she completely forgot all pretense for a brief moment and freely expressed herself.