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Stay InspiredEAA is your guide to getting the most out of the world of flight and giving your passion room to grow.
My First Real Fly-In Lunch – And I Didn’t Even Know It
By Maggie Nett, EAA 1165001, EAA Digital Marketing Coordinator
May 12, 2016 - My first fly-in lunch experience is somewhat unconventional as I didn’t know I was going to be attending one until I landed—at the Central County Airport grass strip for the famous Iola Friday Lunch. How did this happen you ask? Let’s back up an hour.
I was sitting at my desk when fellow EAA employee Tom Charpentier stopped over at my neighboring cube that belongs to my friend, and EAA’s Social Media Manager, Glory Aulik. He was wondering if she or anyone else wanted to fly to Iola for lunch. I had heard about flying to Iola for lunch from other employees, so it piqued my interest. I am always up for an airplane ride - and food.
Tom said he was willing to take anyone who was interested in going, so I said to her over my cube, “Glory, take me!” We both giggled at my self-invitation, but we decided it was too nice outside to pass up the opportunity.
Once we arrived at the hangar, Glory and I realized that we were fulfilling the May #AVChallenge of trying a new aviation related experience. Neither of us had ever had the opportunity to go to a lunch fly-in!
After a quick preflight check, we were up in the air. Glory, a student pilot, took controls once we were up and I immediately felt this sense of pride for my friend – she was flying me and it was so cool! To my dislike, the ride was a bit bumpy. The slightly windy conditions and the updrafts over the swamps were the culprit, but soon enough we were descending on our destination.
Up to this point all I knew was that we were “flying to Iola for lunch,” as Tom had said earlier. In my mind I had pictured a small paved runway and a quaint restaurant nearby—all Tom had said was that it was buffet style. Well, I was in for a very unexpected and wonderful treat!
About five minutes out from landing, Tom asked us both if we had ever landed on a grass strip before. I said yes.
My grandpa owned the grass runway across the road from where I grew up, and he also owned the Cessna 172 my dad would use to take my siblings and I for rides when we were younger. Glory said she hadn’t – another experience she could add to her #AVChallenge!
As Tom searched for the grass strip down below I continued to take in the view from the back seat. “There it is, I see all the planes,” Tom said. Thinking he meant five or six other lunch-going airplanes, I didn’t give his comment a second thought.
The best part about the trip was I didn’t realize I was attending my first real grassroots fly-in event until we were already on the ground and had turned the airplane to park. Glory asked, “Wait, is this a fly-in lunch event?” Tom simply explained that, “Yes, they do lunches every Friday here.” We just looked at each other and laughed! Good thing I convinced her to go, this was going to be great!
We parked the airplane, stepped out into the warm breeze, and headed to lunch.
As the three of us rounded the corner into the hangar, we were greeted by so many friendly faces, along with great-smelling food! Wow, I was not expecting so many people to be there! It reminded me of a huge family reunion, except there were a bunch of cool airplanes parked outside!
I was overcome with gratitude that I belonged this community – a community that spans decades, occupations, and interests, but is brought together by the love of these things that soar through the sky. It was a wonderful feeling I experienced in that moment.
You see, up until that point, the only fly-in I had attended was AirVenture. A fly-in that’s on such a large scale that anyone who’s been there knows you get pulled in many different directions. This fly-in lunch was different. I got to experience our members on a more intimate scale, allowing me to meet new people, listen to conversations, see new planes, and even get a ride in a Piper J-3 Cub!
Glory and I were given the ride by owner and member Ed Lachendro. It’s funny how small our world is —just a few months earlier, was I watching Ed and his son Luke participate in a photoshoot at our annual Skiplane Fly-In. Now here I was, getting a ride from him on a gorgeous 80-degree day!
My only experience in a semi-open airplane was a 5-minute ride in the EAA Flying Club’s CUBy and at the time I was too afraid to allow the door to stay open. Not on this ride!
While flying around, I so badly wanted to have a Titanic moment and stick both of my arms out to the side, but I didn’t want to scare Ed. So, I just soaked up my goggle-less, headphone-less ride in the open air. It was my own personal convertible ride in the sky.
Back on the ground it was time to head back to headquarters. We said thank you and goodbye to those we met, and just like that we were off again.
On the flight back, I reflected on what a spontaneous and amazing afternoon I had just had, and I couldn’t help but smile. There’s nothing else like aviation that can so quickly transport someone to new places, bringing with it exciting and fun experiences.
My first grassroots fly-in lunch was a total success.