How Not To Sell Your Airplane

The rounded handwriting of the address foretold a letter from my daughter Victoria, a writer living in Los Angeles. I opened the letter and a photograph fell into my lap. It was a picture of the two of us standing on the barren gravel ramp of Fort Yukon, Alaska. In the background, was our airplane, a Mooney, recently sold.

I read the letter which consisted only of the following poem.

               To Mike

Our plane, our friend. Goodbye.
We love you.  We'll miss you.  Safe Journey.  Farewell.
Wave quickly.  Cry.

Eight summers spent under star filled skies
From Oshkosh to the land of the midnight sun,
Canoeing and hiking, and camping and more,
Pictures and diaries; documentaries of fun.

Packing the plane; down to a science.
The table always goes first.
Then the chairs, then the tent, then the poles, then the bags.
Any more, poor Mike just might burst.

Then up!  Pass the thunder. There's ice on the wings.
Whew! We made it at last.
Hurry! Land! Run inside!
Here come the rain in a furious blast.

Rainbows, clouds, sun, and wind,
Queasy stomach in the turbulence.
Where's my pillow?  I feel a nap coming on.
Wake me if there's anything of interest.

Our memories are fond; our pictures unique
of father and daughter and plane.
We'll tell our tales of travel abroad
again and again and again.

But never will the tale be told without pause
And a moment or two of respite,
As we think for a moment of the fair red and grey
of dear old zero-eight-Mike.

There was no reason for anyone to pay attention to the car stopped by the mailboxes. That was fortunate, since I had a a hard time blinking back the tears.  I thought of the last two months and the terrible emptiness inside. Obviously, my daughter felt it too. We had shared a lot in that Mooney. It had brought parent and child together as she had made the transition from teenager to adult. It was the magic carpet that transported her from college to home for four years. But most of all, in it, we spent several weeks together every year traveling somewhere and camping "under the wing". There could have been no better way for us to really get to know each other than the time we spent together with "Mike".

The current recession and a poor business climate had made me edgy about our financial situation. I suggested to my wife Gayle that we sell the airplane. She objected strongly, but I insisted. In two weeks, I had a deposit check and a contract for sale.

I was not in touch with my heart. That airplane, that Mooney, was as much a part of my identity as my face or my fingerprints. The day after I signed the contract of sale, I called the buyer.

"I can't sell you the airplane", I explained.

"Sir, you already have".

The buyer, an attorney, went on to point out that we had a binding contract; that he would sue me if I didn't perform; that it would cost me ten thousand dollars and that he'd end up with the airplane, anyway. Thus I learned something about contract law.

"But, You have no idea how much I regret my decision", I explained.

"I don't care. I am not your friend."

A consultation with a local lawyer confirmed, the situation. I was a big boy, I had made a contract and had to live with it. Friends consoled me with words to the effect that the plane was only a machine. It could be replaced.

True, true. But "Mike" can never be replaced. A day hasn't gone by when I haven't missed him. I realize, how insignificant the money issues were when compared with the emotional issues.

Friends, let me advise you to think carefully about parting with your airplanes. Don't act in a hasty manner. Include in each contract, a waiting period. But most of all, be in touch with your heart.

[The above story appeared in the April 1992 edition of the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association (MAPA) Log] 

There is a sequel to this story.