Approaching Cedar Valley from the east, listening into the unpublished common frequency, I began to hear the position reports of a fellow disciple of flight partaking in the morning’s idyllic conditions on this beautiful Saturday. My intentions this morning were to attend the West Desert Airpark Memorial Day Fly-in, where the owners of the airpark have requested myself to speak for a few moments on behalf of the Utah Back Country Pilots Association. Having recently been a part of the efforts to reopen the airstrips atop Fremont Island, educating pilots on the restrictions this opportunity demands of pilots who visit my favorite place in the state is a responsibility I’m glad to take charge of. And if we can purpose some flying to complete that mission, even better.
Having visited Cedar Valley before, and talking to some old hands who whispered murmurings of the future demise of the airstrip, the sea of colored parafoils and the constant chattering on the radio, all with a crowd of a few dozen enjoying the feats of these aviators brought a strong sense of hope and joy for a place that I had earlier felt was slowly fading away. Not to disturb the Cedar Valley fly-in, I called in my position, and asked if a fly-over of the airstrip at 1,000’ as I continue my planned route to West Desert would be too much to ask for. “We’re well under that, so you’re good.”
Making a straight clip to the west after rounding the corner of the Restricted Area, intending to be an impromptu part of their celebration with a wing-wag overhead, another voice came on the radio. “That sure looks like a nice plane. Why don’t you come down here and show it to us.” Having been airborne for the last 30 minutes or so, grinning ear to ear the entire time, the muscles of my face were further strained as my heart warmed up to a group of aviators who welcomed me into their fold.
Entering and exiting the Cub can almost be an Olympic sport. Years of training and experience allow a Cub pilot to exercise their strength and flexibility to maneuver their bodies out of the door without injury. Those who do so with grace take the art of extraction to another level. Today, we’re fortunate enough to not rip yet another pair of my favorite pants as we compete for the gold. Slowly, a crowd begins to gather to investigate this outcast of the group. Admiring the beauty of the cub, peering into its soul, the manager of the airport, Kent, slowly walks up to me and soon I realize it was his voice that welcomed me to join them. Thanking him for the invitation, I’m later welcomed to join in on what’s left of their breakfast.
Amongst the many inquiring about the story of the Cub was one gentleman who I could sense saw what I see in the Cub. Sure, its curves are pleasing to the eye. Sure, it has a classic paint scheme not seen regularly. Sure, it’s different than what’s flying overhead at the moment. But I knew Sherm saw the joy that the airplane brings to those who get to fly it. Before he could ask me “How much would it take for me to get a ride in your Cub?” I had him start his training in the Entering the Cub olympics. Being a taller, mature gentleman, I initially thought we’d have to work on his form. Whether it was the excitement for flight, or my gross underestimate of Sherm’s abilities, he gracefully landed into the back seat, buckled his seatbelt, and at the low cost of free, I obliged his request to join the ranks of Cub pilots, while giving him the gold in today’s Olympic trials.
Braving the skies above his friends, I gave the controls to Sherm. Not being a licensed pilot, a quick run-down of the airplane and he was off, gracefully cutting lines in the sky as we competed in the ‘who’s smiling the most’ challenge. Spoiler alert: we tied. Waving the wings to his friends below, he regularly inquired “is this you flying?” to which a wave of my hands and a “that’s you buddy” reminded him that for those moments in time, the Cub was at the controls of Sherm, surely something him nor I imagined happening this morning.
Moments turned minutes turned millennia, the skies above Cedar Valley once again fulfilled their purpose, and the hearts of the brave and the bold melded into one, where man and machine were elevated beyond the scope of their creators. If there was one regret, it was that the time which binds us all kept me from finding more Sherms.
The Cub is what made this moment possible, and my heart and my logbook yearn for these moments to happen. Airports like Cedar Valley provide the conduit for which these connections are made, and I hope that the soul of airports like this can be contagious to the future Sherms of the neighboring communities. Saturdays like this one, the gorgeous weather that we were blessed with, the complimenting fly-in evens, may lead one to believe that the this perfect storm is one rarely observed. If that is true, that we must contend with the many outside forces that makes these moments happen, then the onus is on us to keep our eyes open for these days, our machines fueled for these moments, and our hearts softened for these memories.