I usually donate brownies to The Seattle Times employees' United Way auction. But last year I figured a flight-seeing trip would raise more...

Share story

I usually donate brownies to The Seattle Times employees’ United Way auction. But last year I figured a flight-seeing trip would raise more money for charity. I’m a private pilot with access to a Cessna 172.

It worked. Dina Skeels, a graphic designer in advertising, purchased the ride as a gift for her husband, Darrell. She paid $50 — not a lot by flying standards but nearly three times the money my brownies fetch. Darrell was thrilled and called me as soon as he learned about his present, wanting a ride that stormy winter day.

Alas, I don’t fly during storms — particularly when people want to see something besides clouds.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Those clouds were nothing compared to the storms we weathered getting this flight-seeing trip off the ground.

When blue sky returned, I realized I needed a routine flight review with an instructor. Then, between more storms, plane availability and my work schedule, several weeks passed before I could e-mail Darrell Skeels and agree upon an upcoming Tuesday.

At the last minute, I had a family emergency and needed to postpone the trip to the following Tuesday.

The day before the rescheduled trip Jim Rosenwald, the lead partner in my plane-ownership group, called and reminded me that rules had changed at Boeing Field. We needed passes to park in the gated area by our plane. He had just put my pass in the mail, but because I needed it quickly he retrieved the envelope from his office mail so I could pick it up.

That Tuesday I was psyched. I had the new parking sticker. Before I left the house, I grabbed my flight bag with maps, handbooks and headset. I grabbed the key to the airplane. I had what I thought was the security code to get into the gate.

I headed to Boeing Field an hour before our date because I needed a new identification badge. But the only employee who makes the badges was gone for the afternoon.

I called Skeels, and we rescheduled to Thursday.

This time I was determined to be prepared. I went to Boeing Field the day before and got my ID badge from one of the most delightful King County employees imaginable, Donna Brudevold. She kindly told me I needed a signature from a co-owner of the airplane — the partner whose name is on the rental agreement — before she could issue the badge.

I called Rosenwald’s Bellevue dental office from the parking lot, hoping he hadn’t yet left on vacation. Luckily he hadn’t, so I dashed to Bellevue for his signature.

By Thursday I was really prepared. I had my flight bag and my flight plan. I listened again to the security cautions for the area — about a 15-minute recording. I got a weather briefing.

I arrived at Boeing Field again and finally picked up the ID badge. I headed down to the meeting spot. When Skeels arrived, we drove to the automatic gate. I punched in the access code. Nothing happened. I punched it in again.

Nothing.

After saying a few unladylike things under my breath, we drove back to the airport offices. I figured because I’d been there three days running, they’d give me the code.

Before I went inside, I looked at my watch and realized Rosenwald might be in his office. So I called him and he gave me the code.

Back we went. This time the code opened the gate.

Skeels and I removed the plane cover, untied the airplane, and stashed the cover and tie-down ropes in a storage box — which only opens with another code. I stuck my hand into my pocket to get the keys that unlock the airplane door and turn on the plane.

That’s when I got a mental image of the keys — sitting on the kitchen counter in my home. In a last-ditch effort to salvage the day — and my pride — I called home in hope that someone there could bring me the key.

No such luck. Sigh.

Feeling like a complete idiot, I rescheduled the flying date for another lunch hour. I mentally gave the man an award for bravery. I’m not certain that I’d fly with someone who seemed so scatterbrained on the ground.

Weather was perfect on the new date. This time I remembered everything — the badge, the parking pass, the gate code, the keys. And, hey, I even remembered how to fly an airplane.

Skeels was thrilled as we flew all over the Puget Sound area.

The smooth flight and blue sky combined with magnificent views, making me remember how delightful escaping the bounds of gravity can be. It is magical.

When we returned to Boeing Field, I executed a flawless landing.

Skeels was so happy he said he wanted to sign up for flying lessons.

I’m thrilled for him.

But when it comes to the next United Way auction, forget flight-seeing.

I’m donating brownies.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com