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  • After a few passes overhead to evaluate snow cover, I had landed my "big" plane at their strip on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning. My passenger went off right away to tend business while I talked story. I asked if I had parked in a bad place for them to get out of the hangar.

    "No you're fine," they said. They didn't get things like a TBM700 in there very much they also assured me. If ever, for that matter. But they knew plenty about PT6 turbine engines, and other pieces and parts, so we chatted technically about this and that.

    Somehow, they have even more snow than Vermont down that way and a cold breeze was sapping our heat. So we ventured into the hangar after a while taking in the TBM. Every hangar at a small little field like this is a treasure. This one proved no disappointment. The yellow Aeronca beauty-on-skis sat at center stage. Surrounded by standard-fair, if aging, Cessnas and an old Jaguar X-something-or-other up on jackstands. And then even a Republic RC-3 Seabee amphib sitting in the back. Facing the corner, she had no wings attached and looked a bit ... awkward. Apparently the Jaguar and the Bee were vying for their owner's time. But she looked no less beautiful to me than she would have for her 1946 debut.

    Up front, the Aeronca cowling was open wide and there were heat lamps shining on the engine. The owner, Jim, offered me a soda from the fridge and told me how to get into the next building over if ever I needed to get out of the cold on another visit. I thanked him for both, took a bottled water, and mused over the likelihood of a return. Not very, in my estimate ... but I hope for it all the same.

    I went back outside to check some weather and flight planning for the return to Vermont. And make a phone call or two. As I chatted with an old friend about good things, the guys had opened the hangar and pushed the Aeronca out past the TBM. There, they chocked the skis and removed the wheels. Commitment, I laughed to myself while talking on the phone. (A commitment not so available in Vermont this winter, I also lamented quietly.)

    I pace when I talk on the phone. And, somehow, behind my back as as I paced, Jim had hand-propped the Aeronca to life and went back into the hangar.

    Me, TBM, and Aeronca with her motor running. Alone in somewhere-upstate New York. Not another sign of life.

    When the time was right, Jim returned. We exchanged promises to talk again, he climbed in, ski-taxied fifty feet or less ahead, turned hard left toward the open field, firewalled the throttle, and departed smoothly for frozen lakes northward.

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