I was working late at my hangar/workshop at the Leesburg (JYO) airport. I had the door wide open to invite some cool night air into my workspace. As I remember, I was taking a break with my feet up when a man approached quietly, out of the darkness. I guess it was the Questair Venture under construction that caught his eye. He asked some questions and we talked for a bit before he vanished into the darkness from where he came. It was only later that I came to realize who he was and what an important person in my life he would become.
After that “Field of Dreams” encounter, Scott became a regular visitor to my hangar… as did many others who owned a condo hangar at that airport. I was the long standing “mayor” (president of the condo association) and “regular” at the airport. For eleven years I toiled on a project that was always just a little over the edge of my ability. Scott was always helpful and more than one time, observed me struggling to make a part I needed only to show up the next day–part in hand–made in his shop at home. We would often have lunch in Leesburg at an Italian deli where he would be able to sneak some “bad” food. I had lots of questions for him about the early days of the space program and he never tired of answering them and telling interesting stories. He was a walking encyclopedia of information, engineering equations, specifications and if he didn’t know it off the top of his head, he would have the answer the next day or by telephone that night.
When Scott lost his medical temporarily, he asked me if I would act as co-pilot from time to time. I accepted without hesitation… more time to ask questions and learn. We would visit his family and friends across the country and I would be able to listen to his presentations, sit in on meetings with educators, award presentations and other events. He would always make sure that I was seated at any dinner table to which he was invited and that I always had proper accomodations. Scott prefered to fly solo though, so when he got his medical back, I rarely was able to get back into N6579X. He did take me up one day for some practice though. After looking over the airplane I was building he commented that the only airplane he ever flew that had a narrower CG range was the Bell X-4. I think he believed that a low time pilot like myself would likely stall and be killed. So off we went to practice “falling leaf” maneuvers. His C210 shook badly while I struggled to keep it right side up. I finally seemed to get the hang of it and we returned to base (JYO). After examining the airplane Scott found that we had shaken so much some battery acid had splashed out and we had to do a bit of a cleanup.
Whenever I would see him come back from a flight, I would walk over to say hello and help him push back. He had a little game he played with the fuel truck guys. They would always be there within a few minutes to top-off the Cessna and they would ask how many gallons it would take. He would think for a minute and give them a number. Sure enough, just about every time he was within a half gallon or so.
I was stunned when he announced to me his decision to move to Manassas Airport. The reason may provide some insight into Scott’s belief that he would be flying for many years to come. You see, the lease of the land upon which our condo hangars sit comes up for renewal in the year 2012. At that time the town of Leesburg must renew for another ten years if the Condo Association is not in default in our rent payments to the town… which we certainly will not be. Scott was so worried about the slight chance that he would lose his hangar in 2012 or for certain in 2022 that he moved to Manassas where he would have a full 40 year lease. I hope when I get to that age, I will be equally optimistic about my longevity.
When traveling with Scott, the thing that surprised me most was his activities surrounding his annual teacher award. I had the priviledge of attending one of the award ceremonies where he was on the dais with Hoot Gibson. Until that day, I didn’t really realize how important this was to both Scott and the teachers. The fact that he gave of his time and money to such a cause was remarkable. Scott refused to cash-in in any way from his fame. He was truly humble and generous and passionate about aviation and education. When asked by an audience member at the award meeting, who were the four most influential people in his life, he rattled off his four elementary school teachers with the ease that he would say what he just had for breakfast. The crowd went wild… they were all teachers themselves and I admit, it choked me up a bit.