When you have had a dream for as long as Dan O’Brien has sometimes it seems like it will never come true. But on the afternoon of July 6 Dan’s lifelong dream of becoming a glider tow pilot did just that.
At first those who were at Harris Hill that day did not know exactly what was happening. Dan had been on at the airfield all day quietly helping where he could as he usually does. He also had been running tows for most of the day from the Super Cub which was not unusual either. After putting in a strong shift as tow pilot Dan stepped away for a moment and summer operations continued.
Then, as the sun was starting to settle towards the horizon and the air became cooler and calmer we heard one of the Pawnees roar to life.
The Super Cub was still online and demand for tows was light so what was up? Dave Graham our chief tow pilot and Dan’s mentor gave a smile and noted “ Dan’s just getting acquainted with the aircraft.”
The flight line continued chugging along and the Pawnee continued to idle. And then taxi to the far runway before taking a few laps back and forth.
Someone on the line asked if Dan was going to fly today.
“Not sure” said another. But Dan removed all doubt when the next lap continued off the edge of the hill and he climbed up over the valley, towards the setting sun and made several smooth circuits of the field. Not stopping there however Dan then made his official debut as a fully fledged tow pilot by tugging 2-33’s aloft as the days flying came to a close.
Persisting to achieve such a dream as Dan has is not easy. It takes patience, skill, dedication, and determination over a long period of time and in spite of any number of obstacles. We all rely on Dan and those like him to keep the sport of soaring alive. Likewise, we rely on the selfless service of great instructors like Dave Graham who both keep the tow planes flying and help the next generation of pilots like Dan get their wings.
There are few places where aspiring pilots have such access to the caliber of equipment and expertise as we have at Harris Hill and for that we should all be grateful. It is a testament to their skill and professionalism that any one of us may hook up for a tow and not give a second thought to who is at the controls knowing that we are in good hands as we head towards release altitude together.
Congratulations Dan and enjoy your accomplishment. By your smile in your post flight photo it looks likely that you won’t be a stranger to the driver’s seat of the Pawnee.