Sunday, July 12, 2009

Robert J. Parks, CFII (1922-2009)

My instructor, my mentor, my friend went West last night after a long, eventful life and a mercifully brief decline. He was 87 years of age, and 67 years a flight instructor.

Bob soloed in an Aeronca C3 on floats in 1939. He served his country during WWII in the CPT program and in the USAAF, attaining the rank of Captain. He went on to a rewarding career in business, but always stayed involved in instructing. Last year he received the FAA's Wright Brothers Award for those with over a half-century of contribution to aviation.

My mind does not usually work in verse, but for some reason as I tried to put my feelings about Bob's passing into words this is what came out:

Requiem for an Aviator

For Robert J. Parks, CFII (1922-2009)

Somewhere far, far to the West – almost beyond where the sun goes to rest
After flecking the clouds with pink and gold hues,
An airfield lies nestled in a valley, under clear blue skies.

The grass strip is home to machines of wood and fabric, wire and dope,
With round engines and spruce props turned by AvGas and the hope
That it won’t quit now – but out there it seems they never do.

Every now and again a new one drones in from the East – there’s always a tiedown
For at least one more, and the guys hangar-flying near the line shack door
Pause and look up as a biplane comes into view above the hill.

The pilot overflies the field, to see what the wind will do, and banks onto the downwind.
He turns base and final, squaring the turns and slipping down to the flare,
Scrubbing off altitude he’d kept in the bank in case the old Continental picked then to tank.

Reacting to the gentle crosswind flow he holds the upwind wings a bit low,
And pulls the stick back, landing in a full-stall. Rolls out, taxis back,
With his sinuous track letting him see past the cowl. “A Waco UPF-7”, somebody says.

The old Waco’s paint is faded and stained but it’s a neat bird, it looks well maintained.
They watch as the flyer taxis around to a tiedown, pulls the mixture, shuts down.
And he climbs out, lithe, agile, with youth rediscovered, and hops to the ground.

As he sheds his leather jacket he hears his name called. “Hey, Parks, where’ve you been?
We’ve been waitin’ for you.” He grins and calls back, “You old reprobate, Lou.
The Teterboro crowd is here? The Ramapo gang, too?”

“You bet. Have some coffee. We’ll get caught up soon enough. And you can tell us,
What the hell is this GPS stuff?” Bob chocks the old Waco and says, “Sorry, Lou,
But I’ve got to find Madeleine, and my grandson, too.”

“Go ahead, Bob,” Lou says, “We’re here every day. Come by in the morning.
The tanks will be full. The oil will be topped up and she’ll start, the first pull.
Bring your grandkid around. You can teach him to fly.”

With a glance at the sky, he walks through the gate – then runs to join the one who waits.
There’ll be no more cross-countrys, no reason to roam.
The pilot’s gone West; he’s found his way home.

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