Cindee's first ride in an airplane. Long Beach Airport to Catalina Island in a Grumman Goose, 1976
Many years ago, I took my first flight in an airplane in Grumman Goose from Long Beach airport out to Catalina Island. I was last in line to get on the airplane and a little boy with a baseball cap beat me, to my disappointment, at the opportunity to sit in the cockpit. The friend I was traveling with sat in the first row of seats, and each time he looked back at me, he saw me smiling ear-to-ear. He knew it was my first flight on an airplane and was wondering if I was nervous. I couldn’t help but smile … I loved every minute of it.
Cindee getting her first look at an airplane (Boeing 747) with Captain Lenny Thorell, Pan-Am, LAX, 1976
My first exposure to airplanes was a tour of a Boeing 747 at Los Angeles Airport with Pan Am Captain Lenny Thorell, and that was what first sparked my interest in aviation. However, it was the Long Beach flight that inspired me to take lessons. Later that year, I took a majority of my life savings and signed up for flying lessons. After high school I spent almost six years working at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. From there, I decided to join the Air Force to become a pilot.
After serving for over a decade in the U.S. Air Force, I joined Southwest Airlines. My home state, where my love of aviation first soared, always seemed to remain a part of my career. I flew the first B737-800 passenger service into Oakland, Calf, my base for over 15 years. This year it brought me the place where I first took flight, Long Beach. I didn’t miss the chance to see the cockpit this time around, as I was already sitting in it. As I landed in Long Beach, I really felt the inner sense of excitement, remembering that first flight in an airplane. It was an honor and a privilege I will always cherish.
Decades of flying later, the wonder of flight never ceases to amaze me. When I was a kid, I used to look up at the sky all the time, admiring the clouds. Now I spend my days soaring around with Southwest Airlines and playing with the clouds in the sky.