Flight of the Soul

This article appeared in the September 2001 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.

by Wanda Olson

June 9, 2001. Strapping it on for the first flight.

How I got finagled into writing this reminds me of how Mel convinced me he had to order the Falco plans! On June 9, 2001, he completed his hero's journey when he took his first flight. Elation and excitement were quite evident when he got the airworthiness certificate from the FAA inspector (he was hopping around like a little kid), but after that first flight, he just grinned and said the usual technical comments about the flight, landing speeds, nice flying aircraft, very sensitive compared to the Citation (which he flies for a living). Now, I see more reaction when he is looking at his album of his project. I certainly had a thrill when I saw that plane leave the ground the first time.

Airborne on the first flight at Centennial Airport in the Denver area.

It was and is his project, and we discussed this when he ordered that tail section back in November/December of 1998. My plate was full with medical transcription seven hours a day, gardening, and taking care of him and he was on his own. Course, how could I refuse when he needed a third hand here and there, and I swore we were going to wear out the manual gear retractor before he got the landing gears/flaps adjusted to his liking!

This journey began back in the l950s when he saw an article in Mechanix Illustrated on a homebuilt airplane... the Baby Ace. To be a pilot was the first goal. Mel came from a ranching background and was told he could not make a living flying airplanes -- I think he has convinced his father and uncle otherwise by now! He had to go through the very normal sequence of the high school sweetheart and then off to the air force in 1961 (married that farm girl on a leave from the military in May 1961). While the family was evolving in those early years, Mel managed to get his private license while at Hill AFB in Utah. He was so delighted that he could take me up on my first airplane ride. The instructor's wife watched my three babies while I embarked on my first flight in a Cherokee. Mel demonstrated a controlled stall and there was a deafening silence as the airplane shuddered a bit and my life flashed before my eyes-I just knew my babies would never see me again! Of course this was a normal procedure, but I did not know that. He later agreed he should not have done that on my first flight. I still prefer straight and level flight.

Immediately after the first flight

Mel's first job after the military was at Combs at Stapleton in Denver, pumping gas! Now night school to get the A&P license, and he was on his way. The first job was in Moab, Utah, flying tours over the canyonlands. We lived in a trailer at the fixed base operation, and I loved it.

Now, I could go into the history of Mel's aviation career, suffice to say we moved 13 times in 15 years. We would have most likely moved less if we had stayed in the military... but the experiences and travels have been most enlightening!

Wanda's first flight -- high plains Colorado.


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