Last night as I looked at the western sky I thought that this afternoon might be good flying weather. I called the FAA and got an outlook briefing for Thursday’s weather. It looked good. I called Olean-Cattaraugus Aviation and reserved their Cessna Skyhawk for Thursday afternoon. Today I arrived at Olean Airport a few minutes before 5 pm. I pre-flighted N65003 and started the plane, taxied to Runway 22, completed my pre-flight and took off.
After a short ground roll ‘003 was airborne and climbing fast in the crisp fall air. I turned crosswind, then downwind and departed the pattern to the northeast. Prior to departure I’d planned a route for today’s flight that would take me to the Geneseo, New York area. After I reached a cruising altitude of 3500 feet I leveled off, leaned the mixture and trimmed the aircraft. Today’s flight was relatively smooth interrupted by only an occasional bump from a thermal welling up from the ground below. My flight took me northeast over the village of Rushford, New York then Rushford Lake and into the Genesee River valley. The lush green vegetation below spread out like a carpet beneath me. I flew out of the foothills of the Allegany mountains and into the rolling farmland that surrounds the river. My eyes kept a normal scan going for other aircraft that might be out enjoying this lovely day. The Genesee Valley is dotted with the villages of Houghton, Fillmore, and Portageville. This string of village is interrupted for eighteen miles of Letchworth State Park which hugs the river between Portageville and Mt. Morris. As I flew over Mt. Morris I could look ahead to Geneseo and see the State University campus. My eyes scanned the area west of the village of Geneseo and settled upon the hamlet of Piffard, New York. As I studied the terrain and followed the roads I know so well I spotted at last the Abbey of the Genesee. I’ve been to the Abbey dozens of times, but this was the first time I was going to be seeing it as the eagle does. As I entered a gradual turn over the monastery I prayed, “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” The Marian blue sky stretched in all directions. This was a blessed day and blessed flight. I thank God with all my heart for the gift of flight and the gift of life. Two years ago my life hung in an uneasy balance as doctors and nurses hovered over me and removed the clots of an embolism from my lungs. Two years later I was cruising at 3500 feet and enjoying every minute of it. Deo Gratias.