A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

December 2007

An Airborne Engagement

If you ever think there are no new ideas to be thought of, better think again. Actually, there will never be a shortage as long as there are people. Just when you think you’ve seen everything .......... well, you haven’t! Take marriage proposals. The guy gets down on one knee to pop the question, or blurts it out over dessert after a nice dinner, or gets much more creative and hires an aerial banner towed behind a plane to fly over his sweetie’s house. There’s always somebody coming up with a new way to do it.

Several years ago, I bore witness to an interesting and entertaining proposal in my airplane. A company out here on the west coast had given certificates for sightseeing trips to it’s employees as Christmas presents. One of the secretaries in their office called up one day to ask whether she could bring her boyfriend along. No problem, as our group of partners had two four-place airplanes in the hangar.  “Romeo” showed up a bit early, took me aside and informed me he’d like to propose to this secretary somewhere over the mountains. They’d only been dating for a few months, so it was to be a big surprise. He had brought along the engagement ring just in case she said yes. I figured if she said no, she could always toss it out the window and leave no doubts as to her feelings.

“Romeo” was a gentleman about everything. He confidently explained to his bride-to-be why certain things had to be done prior to “lift-off”. Like why I was running my hand over the prop .... “to check for ice” (hey, it was February). Why I was draining fuel into a cup under the wing “to check for ice”, why I was inspecting the “wings” (actually the ailerons) “to be sure they went up and down to shake the ice off”. He confidently assured the little lady that I was a safe pilot. Since I’d met him only ten minutes earlier, I’m not sure where the basis for that conclusion came from. At any rate, I had to think it was all in an effort to ensure she was comfortable.

“Juliet” got to ride in the front seat, while “Romeo” crammed himself into the back. Another act of chivalry I thought. He was out to impress this gal. We departed just before sunset, and were soon level at 7,000 feet over the mountains on the north side of Vancouver. It was a beautiful evening, perfect for what was about to happen. Maybe it’s just me, maybe “Romeo” was cursed too, but it’s not very often that things go exactly as planned. Fortunately nothing’s ever turned into a disaster, but I’ve learned to always have a ‘plan-B’ whenever I start at something. Particularly with any flight of any duration to any destination. On this evening, I’d need that plan.

Image: Tourism British Columbia

Just about the time the big event was to occur, I noticed the alternator had quit producing.The volt meter still read a healthy 12 volts, so it wasn’t a problem just yet.The circuit breaker wasn’t popped, no smoke smell, everything else seemed normal. So I killed the unnecessary drains, including the intercom. When the two passengers found they couldn’t speak and hear through the headsets, I smiled, nodded everything was OK, they proceeded to yell their comments at each other. I couldn’t tell what they were saying exactly over the engine noise, but figured he’d popped the question when she screamed, “Yes it is scary”.

I thought I heard “Romeo” say, yelling at the back of her head, “Not scary .... MARRY”.To which “Juliet” responded, “VERY SCARY” at the top of her lungs. They both looked over at me with quizzical looks on their faces as if I could tell them what they’d just said. I smiled and nodded. He was a bit frustrated at this point. After all, the romance had surely gone from the moment, which had turned into a screaming match. She was still interested more in the mountains and the sunset. Finally, from the back seat, “Romeo” thrust the ring in front of “Juliet”, and bellowed his proposal once again. This time there was no doubt in her mind. She flung the seatbelt off, struggled to her knees, turned around on the seat and kissed him.

They didn’t get their full hour in the air as I was already headed back to base, but who’s counting at a time like that. We landed while there was still power enough for the lights and radio. Then the happy couple was off to celebrate at a local restaurant. Nothing else matters when you’re young and in love, except probably a forgotten wallet. “Romeo’s” was sitting on the back seat when I put the plane away, just one small detail that he wouldn’t care about until it came time to pay for the dinner and drinks. I’m thinking that night may have turned into a scenario like this:  Boy invites girl for dinner, then discovers his wallet is missing, the girl grudgingly pays the bill but never trusts him or sees him again. Don’t know if that happened or not.

When this couple has children, they’ll be truthful when they tell them about a screaming match that turned into an engagement. Other guys have taken the plunge, literally, proposing while skydiving, some underwater scuba diving. The list of wild ideas goes on and on. Marriage is something you do once in your life, if you’re lucky. You might as well pull out the stops and create a real memory out of it.

Back to main page