Speaking of air safety

In 2007 I wrote a story, examining possible future uses of the now closed Seneca Army Depot, for Rochester’s City Newspaper. When I called my contact to set up an interview he said, “If you’re free tomorrow come on out. I’m renting a plane to fly over the Depot and take photos for promotional purposes; we have one empty seat left. You can see it first-hand.”

I jumped at the opportunity and the next day I drove the fifty miles to Seneca County to meet him. There were four of us: my contact, myself, the photographer, and the pilot. As we boarded the small plane I was suddenly hit with apprehension. I thought, “Hmmm…only one pilot; only one engine; no Plan B; no safety net. What if something happens while we’re up there? And this pilot is an old man…”

As if reading my mind, the pilot turned in his seat to face us, pulled off his goggles and stated, more than asked, “Ready?”

One look at his weathered, emotionless face told me if we only had one Plan A, this was definitely the one I wanted.

I held this thought as we buzzed the town-size Depot, engine straining as we banked steeply so the photographer could shoot almost straight down. I embraced this thought with vice grips as the wind roared in the open window so loud that we had to yell at each other to be heard. I bit into this thought, drawing blood, as we banked again, this time so steeply the horizon was nearly vertical.

Did I feel safe? Was I scared? Back down on the ground, my feet on the tarmac, I faced away from the others so they couldn’t see me grinning.

Cast: Glenn Cooke, Executive Director, Seneca County Industrial Development Agency; Don Cochran, Photographer; John Dougherty, Ace Pilot

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