Treasured Memories in our Midst.

Owen Zupp Training Aircraft

Treasured Memories in our Midst.

The airfield has all but gone to bed. The drone of a lone aircraft flying circuits by night comes and goes, occasionally interrupting its own rhythm with a loud surge of power as it seeks to become airborne once again. Otherwise, it is still.

Dormant hangars house all forms of aviation wonder but the night precludes my childhood hobby of peering through the cracks between the massive doors. An occasional hangar boasts a light mounted on its corner, illuminating a small patch of its surroundings. One such light catches the form of a red and white aircraft, canvas cockpit cover in place and lashed down to concrete blocks.

Immobile and impotent, the Piper Arrow has its registration VH-BME displayed on its flanks. The letters are more than familiar for we have crossed paths before on our respective journeys. As a young trainee pilot, my fledgling attempts at cross country navigation were in this aircraft, although she wore a different scheme back then. 25 years later I would see her again at Geraldton W.A. as I wove my way around Australia on my solo charity flight.

Zupp. Flight on Reflection.
VH-BME in my early days of flight training.

Now she sits forlornly. Her propeller nowhere to be seen and her tail one no longer in residence. The once shiny red paint I had seen on the tarmac in Western Australia is faded and chalky. And I suspect that the cockpit cover conceals a similar sad story within. Still, this sad looking airframe stirs emotion with for beneath that cover I had once sat with my father.

As he steered me through my early days of flight, we would fly BME to distant airfields. We would fly low level between points etched on a chart, ever aware of powerlines and other rising obstacles. And we would always land on the shorter grass runway for practice, even though the long dark strip of asphalt beckoned. We would then pause for a sandwich and a thermos of tea that mum had readied for us at home, hours earlier.

We would sit in the shade of the wing on a sheet of green canvas that travelled everywhere with us and even today lines the boot of my car. He would speak and I would listen as his gems of knowledge fell upon my enthusiastic ears. Understated and simple, I hold those lessons true to this day as I steer a Boeing about the sky. Little did I know that within a few short years of sheltering in the shade of a wing he would be gone.

Zupp Without Precedent

With his passing, the instructor’s seat was now empty. His guidance in matters of aviation were silenced. More importantly, his mentorship in what I should be as a man and father had been taken. Still, his example lived on in my mind and his lessons were embedded. They are still crystal clear today.

Airspeed – Aim Point – Aspect.

Family – Integrity – Humility.

So, even in the form of a worn out aircraft on a still summer evening, a trigger can be pulled in the mind. Thoughts and recollections can rise to the surface and even the occasional emotion can be recalled. Wherever we travel we are surrounded by experiences of the past – the people, the places. And every day we are creating more to store and savour at a later date as we should. For who knows what lies ahead and those recollections may consequently be all that we have.

We should always be vigilant and curious for in the most unlikely of places there may be a treasured memory in our midst.

Without Precedent Zupp