The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues – self-restraint. ~ Edwin Way Teale
Our family said a bittersweet goodbye recently. No, it wasn’t a funeral. My parents had to sell their Cessna 182, a four-seat, single engine plane with lots of memories. It wouldn’t have been so wrenching except we knew it wouldn’t be replaced. You see, my dad, who has been flying nearly all of his life, didn’t qualify for his airman’s medical this round. Being in his early 80s, he held onto it for far longer than most people, and frankly, I don’t see that he is unfit to fly. But that’s the FAA for you.
This story has a happy ending, so stay with me. Remember I said, bittersweet? I’ll get to that.
Some of my earliest memories are of flying with my Dad. I had to fly just by instruments because I wasn’t tall enough to see outside. By the time I was a teen, I started to run a little wild so Dad sent me for a discovery flight. I was instantly in love with flying and [long story short] went on to become a flight instructor.
Eventually, I had Dad in the plane as my student, if only for a few bi-annual flight reviews and some instrument training. I also taught Mom for a while. She had knack for flying that she wouldn’t admit to and never wanted to solo, even though I knew she would have done great. In short, aviation has been something we have shared as a family for as long as I can remember.
Although Mom and Dad owned a number of planes over the years, this one was special because we all spent so much time in it both as a family and separately. We used the C-182 for trips, and I did a fair bit of teaching in it. I would even fly it to Asheville, North Carolina, to hike in the Piscah National Forest. It was a solid performing plane and became part of the family.
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of my parent’s plane and tent taken on one of their fly camping trips. It was taken before the plane was repainted a sexy black and gold scheme. I also talked about our fly-camping trips on a recent podcast.
When the bitter news came that Dad couldn’t fly any more, they decided to sell the plane. It was hard to think of someone else flying the plane. However, life has a funny way of turning pain to joy. Turns out a very special organization desperately needed a reliable plane just like Mom and Dad’s, the African Parks Foundation, and they proceeded to purchase the plane.
The C-182 is currently being ferried to central Africa to monitor and help protect a herd of 457 elephants. This herd had no voice or protection until 2010 when African Parks moved in to help. They have promised to send photos of the plane at work in Africa helping save this herd. Be assured, I’ll them with you as soon as we get them.
Our entire family holds wildlife conservation close to our hearts. Knowing that our plane will be part of a project this important literally brings tears of joy to our eyes, rather than the grief we originally felt over having to sell. So in the end, this story has a very happy ending.
Here is some more information about African Parks in their own words:
African Parks is a non-profit organization that takes total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. Our approach combines world-class conservation practice with business expertise. We place emphasis on achieving financial sustainability of the parks by combining long-term donor funding with tourism revenues, related business enterprise and payment for ecosystem services, which all serve as a foundation for economic development and poverty alleviation. It is our belief that making wildlife parks socially and economically viable, particularly for the benefit of local communities, will contribute to their survival in the face of competing forms of land use.
To learn more about the African Parks Foundation, visit their website: African-Parks.org.