Flying Adventure Takes Summer to New Heights
Jackie Windham is known by almost everyone in Elba. His namesake hardware store is a regular hangout spot that also provides supplies for Elba’s handy folks. He is also known for his planes, which can be seen circling over Elba a few times a week.
Windham is always willing to take riders along, and his excitement about flying and his town is contagious. When I was offered the chance to go flying with him, I felt like I couldn’t say no. I had never been in a small plane before and had only been on a large commercial plane a few times. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t accept this unique experience.
So Windham set out looking for an afternoon that would be good for us to go. On a recent Friday, I received an excited phone call saying that night would be perfect conditions to go. I met him at the small Carl Folsom Airport, and he introduced me to his planes.
Honey, a vintage Piper Cub who was a World War II Veteran, would be our plane for the night. She was used to train pilots before they went overseas and is kept in near-perfect condition. Windham’s pride and love for his planes was apparent, and I found it so endearing. In the hangar next door, he introduced me to his other plane, Mistress, who was named by his wife because, I assume, of the amount of time he spends with her.
He showed me all the different parts of Honey and helped me climb in, which was not an easy task! He checked the fuel levels and other things I didn’t understand, and then he prayed for a safe flight and started up the engine.
It was a short drive from his hangar to the end of the runway. We turned around, gained speed and we were off! I’ve always noticed the beautiful scenery around Elba, but as soon as we were off the ground I was speechless. The rolling hills were covered by thick green trees as the evening mist just started to settle.
It was 6 o’clock and the sun was getting low in the sky, shining through the clouds not far above the tree line. Even the houses, buildings, factories, and businesses looked like they belonged, nestled in a forest. Cows and horses looked like ants, roaming on grass that looked as seamless and smooth as a well-manicured lawn.
I was taking in the scenery for the first time from this angle, but Windham, who has seen the sights hundreds of times before, seemed just as awed. “God makes a beautiful creation, doesn’t He?” he said to me.
We circled around Elba, and Windham pointed out peoples’ houses, different businesses and farms. We saw the schools, the dam, and downtown Elba. I was able to admire the parking lot the EHS Interact Club painted this summer.
We were in the air about an hour. As excited as I was to be doing something new, Windham seemed just as excited to be there. “I love sharing my passion for flying with anybody, but especially young people,” he told me.
More than once he suggested I consider becoming a pilot. His kindness and enthusiasm, as well as his confidence and calm manner, made me feel so comfortable and unafraid in the air. I’m so glad I have gotten to know this pilot and was able to experience such a cool thing during my time in Elba. His love for aviation and for his community was evident, and I am so thankful to have gotten to share in it.