My Story

Why I Fly, and Why I Fly a Mooney

The story of how I got into the skies and started living out my childhood dream.

Richard Brown
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Why do I fly, and how did I end up with a Mooney, a plane that up until just before beginning my flight training I had never heard about?


Why do I fly, and how did I end up with a Mooney, a plane that up until just before beginning my flight training I had never heard about?

My mom’s dad was career Air Force, but not a pilot. My dad was career Air Force, and spent probably half of his 20 years in the service flying. When I was born, he was an instructor pilot at Williams AFB in T-38’s, and before I was a year old we spent time in the Philippines and Taiwan where he flew C-130’s in and out of Cambodia. Perhaps those early years put the flying bug into me, I don’t know, I was too young to remember. Maybe I was born with the bug. What I do know is that I have no memory of not wanting to fly.

Richard Brown

When I was about five years old, we were living at the Air Force Academy where my dad’s current assignment was teaching. Like all kids, I got sick. This one was just some bug that leaves a kid feeling miserable with a fever and vomiting. After a few days, in the midst of this misery, my parents were trying to cheer me up but nothing was working. Nothing that is, until my dad pulled out his flight helmet and let me put it on. Even as sick as I was it put a huge smile on my face.

My Dad’s next assignment was at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska flying HC-130’s with the 71st Air Rescue Squadron. When we first arrived there, we temporarily lived in the Bachelor’s Officers Quarters on the second floor. I know, for a family with six kids it was an odd place to put us, and we actually used two quarters next to each other, but it was what they had for us at the time. For me it was perfect, because from the window I could look out and see portions of the runway between the buildings.

I would sit there at the window for hours at a time with a paper and pencil and write down the type of planes landing and taking off and putting a tally mark next to them to track them. My oldest sister, who was eleven at the time, didn’t think anything of an eight year old never leaving the window for hours watching planes. Fast forward thirty years, and that same sister, who now had boys of her own, told me that she looks back on that time in Alaska and realizes how “strange” my behavior was, because she can’t get her boys to sit still for ten minutes! There is no way that they would sit at a window for hours at a time watching for planes to land and take off.

Following a Dream

In the mid to late 1980’s I would spend countless hours on our Tandy 1000 computer flying the original F-15 Strike Eagle. The graphics were terrible by today’s standards, but it was flying. I still remember the day I was playing it and after ignoring the warning on the screen I was suddenly dead with a message “VMAX EXCEEDED” flashing on the screen. I went into the other room to ask my dad what it meant. He said, “It means you went too fast for the plane, and it probably tore the wings off and came apart.” Up until that time I had no idea that could even happen.

I would spend countless hours on that same computer flying the original Microsoft Flight Simulator, trying to find my way from one airport to the next one using what little knowledge I had of VOR’s that I got from the game manual over scenery that provided no clues about where you were going.

I narrowly missed getting into the Air Force Academy and started to go the ROTC route at Arizona State in the early 90’s, but the cuts to Defense made the chances of getting a pilot slot through ROTC slim to none. So, I went a different direction with my career, but never lost my dream of flying. I have heard it said that you can tell which kids want to be a pilot by going to a playground and seeing which ones look up when planes fly overhead. I never stopped looking up towards the sound of a plane, but I would not take my first flight at the controls of a plane until I was 44 years old.

Realizing My Dream

So how did I finally end up realizing a childhood dream, and how did I end up with a Mooney? Those two questions are tied closely together. I have a good friend that I met at church. His family had moved into the neighborhood, and we have sons the same age. The boys became friends, our wives became friends, and he and I became good friends. We were talking one day, and he mentioned that he had been flying. I knew what he did for a living, and it was not flying planes.

“You’re a pilot?”
“Seriously? How long have you been flying?”
“I don’t know, about 30 years.”

I was still trying to process it all in my mind when he said, “We have our own plane.” My mind was spinning. As I said, I knew what he did for a living, and he made a good living, but nowhere near what I thought someone needed to earn to own a plane.

“What kind of plane do you have?” I asked.
“A Mooney” he said.

I had no idea what a Mooney was, but a quick search on my phone revealed the answer. It also got the gears turning in my head that maybe, just maybe my dream of flying did not have to remain a dream. 

For Christmas that year, my wonderful wife had walked into Aircraft Spruce and said, “What do you have that I can give someone who wants to be a pilot?” Christmas morning, I unwrapped a logbook, a couple of charts, and a Pilot’s guide to Southwestern Airports. There wasn’t a gift certificate for flight lessons, but the dream was well and alive.

In the spring, my friend was going to be flying his Mooney back to their place in northeastern Utah, and asked if my son wanted to come along and hang out with his son. My son had never been in a small plane, and neither had I, so I mentioned that it might be a good idea to take my son on a short local flight, just to make sure that he wouldn’t get twenty minutes into the trip and find out he was going to have to come back.  On a Sunday after church we met him at the airport and he gave both of us a short flight in his Mooney. I was in love. It was a 1961 M20B. It wasn’t fancy, but it was awesome! I knew that if I ever had a plane, I wanted a Mooney.

A few months later we found out that my wife’s two oldest daughters were going to be having kids a couple of months apart. We live in Southern California, one of her daughters was living in the Salt Lake area, and the other was in the Idaho Falls area. My wife said, “I know you have always wanted to fly. Why don’t you get your license, we’ll buy a plane, and you can fly me to see the grandkids.” I didn’t waste any time. Two days later I took my first lesson. Four and a half months and 46.7 hours of flight time after that first flight, my childhood dream was a reality, I was a pilot. 

Two months after my check ride, with just under 60 hours in my logbook, we bought our Mooney. It was the realization of a childhood dream, and I also had my dream plane, a plane that just over a year earlier when my friend said he had a Mooney that I had to look up to see what it was. That was the beginning of making memories that would never have been possible without the license and the Mooney. We have been places we never would have gone, and we have spent more time with family than ever before.

“Why do I fly?” I’m not sure that is the right question to ask. Perhaps the better question would be “Why wouldn’t I fly?” The feeling when you leave the ground, raise the gear, and climb away from the earth in defiance of gravity is like no other feeling in the world. 

Why do I fly a Mooney? Because a friend offered to take me for a flight in his Mooney. So take a friend on a flight. You just might be the catalyst in the realization of someone’s dream of flying, or the birth of a dream. And, possibly the birth of another Mooniac.

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