By Mel White
contributing writer 

Up in the air

On the Bright Side


July 31, 2021

Mel White.

My dad always loved the idea of flying, of being up in the air. As a kid he made paper and wood airplanes, and learned as much as he could about flying. And when the time came he joined the Navy and learned to fly for himself. He was a Navy pilot for 10 years.

One thing led to another and he left the Navy, went back to school and became a doctor, and eventually bought his own airplane, a Beechcraft Debonair which we named Tocamasa (letters from the names of our little family of four). As a family we flew a lot – I'd flown many thousands of miles in Tocamasa before I ever boarded a commercial flight for the first time in college.

I love flying, too, but not as much as my dad did, not enough to actually learn to fly myself. Dad did let me take the controls a few times while we were in Tocamasa, but that's not the hard part of flying a plane (taking off and landing are the parts that take skills).

One of Dad's buddies at Minter Field near Shafter had an open cockpit bi-plane and Dad arranged for me to get a ride in it one time. Dad told his friend that I loved wild rides (i.e. roller coasters, etc.), so while we were in the air the pilot friend did every wild thing he could do legally (determined by the fact that we weren't wearing parachutes) and I had an absolute ball! This was some years ago but in my mind, it was so fun that I remember it like it was yesterday.

A few years after that, Dad took me out to the glider port here in Tehachapi (Mountain Valley Airport) for another fun surprise – he bought me a ride in a glider, a whole new part of the up-in-the-air ballgame for me.

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I loved it. Again the memories make me smile and take me back to the experience like it was just yesterday, sitting in a "tin can" floating above the ground. For a brief second up there I remember thinking, oh wow, I'm up here with no engine and depending completely on the sometimes fickle wind and the skills of someone I don't know – but any trepidation I felt melted away at the views and the wonderful feeling of soaring. It's another world up there in a glider, and one I would gladly go into again.

Well, I would except nowadays my physical health is not up to getting into that tight little seat, so I have to enjoy other people's enjoyment. And enjoy I do.

Over the Memorial Day weekend my friend Susanna was visiting from Las Vegas and she and another friend Karen and I were casting about for something to do. I don't remember who suggested it but we decided to go for lunch at the Raven's Nest (a deli/café at the glider port) and see if there was any glider activity.

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There was indeed. When we pulled up we saw a line of five or six gliders waiting for a tow, and we quickly figured out there were two tow planes busy working that day. Lunch was delicious and we sat by the window watching the planes take off and other gliders get pushed into the line. After lunch we went and sat outside and watched more planes go up, up and away. The line of gliders waiting to take off never seemed to get smaller.

What a fun afternoon we had. It brought back so many memories for me personally, but it was such a treat to do something a little out of the ordinary, and to see so much activity right in our own backyard, so to speak. I must remember to go out there more often, both for lunch and to watch the planes.

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(One side note: the day was so beautiful when we were there, the sky so blue and the winds just right that while we saw so many gliders take off, we never saw any of them land. They just seemed to stay up in the air forever – although I am sure they did come down eventually or we would have heard about it, right?)

If you're ever looking for something a little different to do some day, why don't you take a little ride out to the glider port off Highline Road in Tehachapi, have a little lunch and watch the runways and the skies.

© 2021 Marilda Mel White. Mel, local Tehachapi writer/photographer and owner of Tehachapi Treasure Trove, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996 and she welcomes your comments at


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