By Tajae Viaene, Assistant Chief Flight Instructor, Fargo Jet Center
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the sharp, hooked talons of a Red-Tailed Hawk. We had just become airborne in my Cessna 140 aircraft, and his nails were inches from my delicate Plexiglass windshield. No sooner had we the chance to widen our eyes and suck in a gulp of uneasy air, than we heard the wisp of his feathers sliding across the top of my fabric winged aircraft. As the bird left our sight and flew on, Dave Stokka and I sighed in relief while together saying, “Did we just hit a bird? Do you think the fabric is okay?”
Dave is a flight instructor working on his tailwheel endorsement, and he has found there is never a dull moment while learning to tame the Cessna 140. In this case, you can imagine our hearts beating fast with a combination of adrenaline and the unknown condition of the top wing of my aircraft, until we were safely back on the ground. Upon further inspection, it was found that we had a little extra luck going for us that day. There was no damage to report, not even a scratch.
As I peered across the airport looking to catch one more glimpse of that hawk, a silly thought crossed my mind. If I could, I’d like to thank that raptor for scooping in his legs just in time to resist sliding those nails across the shiny fabric of my prized possession. Aircraft ownership is a true gift, though it comes with considerable responsibility. I’ve found freedom like I never had imagined before. I could take off tomorrow and fly the countryside if I wanted to, or I could sneak up tonight and task my little boy with spotting rotating beacons as we pass by small airports in the area.
There is something to be said about discovering the skies on your own terms, on your own course. Do I prepare for the day when my luck will run out and my aircraft may need costly maintenance? Absolutely. Does the thought of that deter me, or cause hesitation in my decision to be an aircraft owner? Not a chance.