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Professionally Speaking

Thanks, Mom!

A family flying story

I was sitting in the pilot's lounge at Moontown Airport in Huntsville, Alabama, on a recent Sunday afternoon, swapping lies with the regulars when I became aware that a big event was unfolding. Lisa Brunegraff, a regular at Moontown, was waiting for her daughter, Keavy (rhymes with levy) Nenninger. Not only is Lisa a pilot, but she is also a mechanical engineer working on NASA projects. Keavy is a college freshman at St. Louis University.

Keavy and her flight instructor, Emily Dover (this is an all-female pilot story), had flown to a nearby airport where Keavy was to take her private pilot practical test. As if that wasn't excitement enough, she was due back at the college in St. Louis the very next day. Emily and Keavy hadn't planned to cut it that close, but local weather had postponed the checkride until the last minute.

As the afternoon passed, everyone became more interested in Keavy's fate. Had she finished the checkride? If so, how had it gone? Was she taking it at the moment? If so, how was it going?

By now, Lisa wasn't the only one on edge. We all awaited the outcome. Finally, late in the day, Lisa left for a few minutes to run an errand -- and, of course, that's when the call came from Keavy. She said to tell her mother she was through and heading back to Moontown.

She would have ended the call right there and left us wondering, but the fellow on the Moontown end of the phone had the good sense to ask, casually, "How'd it go?" Keavy, equally casually, answered, "Oh, fine." When Lisa returned she was nothing short of ecstatic.

By this time, several people were standing outside in the cold, gazing out over the horizon and awaiting Keavy's flight as if she were Lindbergh arriving in Paris. I was standing out there with them, and I didn't even know Keavy.

Finally, just at dusk, the call came to unicom from Keavy's training airplane, N2866V. Lisa took over the microphone (Moontown is a pretty informal place), but the conversation was businesslike, with no recognition that this was a conversation between a proud mama and an excited daughter. Keavy requested that the runway lights be turned on; Lisa responded and complied. Then from Keavy came that great radio transmission which happens to be the title of this column. "Thanks, Mom!"

Ah, it just doesn't get much better than that. This was a family affair, and it was a flying family. Those two words summed up all of the effort that had gone between a mother and daughter -- the financial commitment, the endeavor, the final push, and the pride. Thanks, Mom.

There was much hugging on the ground, and then the next day Lisa and Keavy drove 436 miles to St. Louis to get the new pilot back into college.

We should seek out more customers like Lisa Brunegraff and Keavy Nenninger. It's good business, and it makes the airport a happier place.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site.

By Ralph Hood

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