A New York Tour of Mind – Flushing Airport – Part III
There are times, when I feel the pull of nostalgia, the urge to visit the haunts of my childhood. Those places are mostly gone, existing only in my imperfect memory. Of vivid memory was Flushing Airport in Queens NY, where I spent many a wonderful childhood hour, dreaming a pilot’s dream.
I was flying! I was the pilot, in command, it was in heaven. “How does it feel?” Speed asked me, what words could I use? I was in stunned silence. After a moment I did tell him that the plane was getting very hard to steer, so he told me to roll in some trim. I did this by turning a wheel to my right. The controls became easier, and I was able to hold the Cessna in a shallow right bank. I was intent on playing ace, scanning the instruments and flashing my eyes out the window, checking “six” making sure there were no ME-109’s on my tail. I was sure this was how it was done. I heard nothing but the drone of the engine and the controller talking to other planes.
I looked out and saw the beautiful necklace of the bridge floating outside my window. I didn’t need an airplane to fly, If I could have just opened the door and stepped out, I would’ve been able to dance from cloud to cloud.
“OK let’s take her in,” Speed broke the silence, “Turn left slowly and start to push the yoke down, pull back a little on the throttle, little more, that’s it.” I felt the plane start to sink. “OK, little more throttle. Don’t go down too fast!” I inched the gas forward and the craft started to rise a little, then off, and we started to sink slowly. “Keep comin’ around Speed said, keep comin around, you’re good, steady. OK, we’re almost lined up with the runway, level off, ease off the throttle that’s it: little more. OK, steer straight. OK, I’ve got it.” He was flying again.
He told me to put in ten degrees of flap; I pushed the handle down and saw the flaps come down. Speed tweaked the gas and pushed the control forward. The little Cessna seemed reluctant to give up the sky. Speed twitched the tail back and forth to bleed off airspeed: only the more experienced pilots did that. And in an instant we were down. We rolled about 100 feet and then turned off the runway and rolled towards the hangers. We were home.
Every ruin, every dilapidated building or closed factory resonates now with the ghosts of its past. The walls will never stand again, nor will the shattered glass re-incorporate itself into a window. The hangers will never shelter another plane. No child will ever again have the chance to sit in a small plane and dream about pushing an X-15 to the edge of space or pretend that they’re Butch O’Hare, Amelia Earhart or Neil Armstrong.
After the debate over the wetlands that the airport has returned to is resolved, and a wholesale distribution center is built, consigning this place to the yellowing files of old community newspapers; few tears will be shed. When the ribbon is cut to mark the opening, Speed’s name, will not be spoken or remembered. Except, of course, by me, because to this day, every time I hear the buzz of a small airplane engine I think lovingly of my dear uncle, Morris Pflantzer, whose enthusiasm for flying and the stars remain with me to this day, Speed Hanzlick for knowing what was in a small boys soul, and to this wonderful ruined place called Flushing Airport. It will always be alive in my heart.
Outside again, looking back again through the fence that runs for miles around the ruins I notice ducks paddling across the runway lake. A flock of geese startled by my presence takes off squawking. For the moment, this wetland still belongs to the airborne.
I am deeply grateful to Mr. Timothy Vogel, whose wonderful images evoke and capture what I am trying to put into words. I have never met Tim, but stumbled upon his photographs while I researched images to compliment this post. May your generosity be returned a thousand fold.
Here is a link to the complete set of Flushing Airport Images