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took off before sunrise once on a flight to LA. I was alone in my Cherokee 180, off to do a Spielberg film. I was only 24 and had just gotten my instrument rating. After flying through a lot of weather all the way to the edge of Ohio, I emerged into clear skies. I was just coming out of the Midwest and rising up into the plains. It was dawn and it was really mystical. It was an extraordinary feeling. I was flying about 1000 feet above the ground and I could see forever, and I realized how incredibly lucky I was. It was one of those really joyous experiences where you’re beside yourself with joy and it’s almost uncontainable. It was very spiritual. But I have little doses of that every time I fly an airplane. I get a little bump with that every time I lift off. I get a little rush of joy. It’s never stopped. And it hasn’t stopped in 30 years of flying. “In my industry, in my business, let’s say you have a task, and that task is to perform a role in movie. And even if you think you did a hell of a good job, you can pick up a New York Times the next day and read scathing reports about what you did that you thought was good. It’s really hit or miss in terms of success or lack of success. Flying an airplane is so task specific. If you fly an airplane, let’s

I don’t think of myself as a celebrity who flies, I think of myself as a commercial pilot who acts. say on a rainy day from Teterboro [New Jersey] out of the edge of a front to beautiful sunny weather in Martha’s Vineyard, or vice versa, and you handle the instrument system well, and you accomplish that task, there’s a sense of incredible immediate satisfaction and gratification that you have this skill, and you work very hard to keep this skill at a very high level, because you have a lot of people


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whose safety is in your hands, and it’s an extraordinary feeling…. To have a skill that is a hand-eye coordination, nuts and bolts skill, as opposed to this kind of very vague, odd business I’m in, is a great balance in my life.” “My first airplane was a Clipped Wing Cub, which I bought, gosh, ’74. And it had nothing. And I was doing things like flying from New Jersey to Connecticut, and I would call the tower [on the phone] at an airport, like Danbury, and tell them when I was coming in, and I’d get the light gun. So I really was a part of that kind of flying, which I’m really pleased to have done. I think some of the younger pilots miss the joy of just… turn the whole panel off, and let’s fly the airplane for awhile.” On the 1941 T-6 he used to own and fly: Getting in the cockpit and smelling the combination of oil, fuel, and hydraulics, it was great. Especially when the engine starts and things begin to heat up. When that fresh air streams over the canopy, there’s just nothing like it. And there’s nothing like when the airplane’s aerobatic. It’s a ballet. It’s just an awesome thing… It gets in your blood and never leaves you. “I can go out and fly any time I want, and I do. I live in an extraordinarily beautiful area to fly. I can fly over the Wasatch Range. And you can fly out over the desert, you can fly down south to where the Red Rocks are in Utah. This has to be one of most beautiful states to own an airplane in. And when the weather comes, you’re also flying around a lot of rocks; you have to be very careful. But I go out whenever I feel like it, and I’ll say, ‘I’m just going to go fly.’ And I’ll just take the airplane out for an hour or two. And just have fun.” “I had Gil [Treat’s son] up. We were going to Ithaca College. It was hard IFR. We went up to 8,000 [feet], and I let him be on the controls with me as we got up into the soup. And

Profile for Pilot Magazine, LLC.

PilotMag-May/June 2010  

Aviation magazine

PilotMag-May/June 2010  

Aviation magazine

Profile for pilotmag