Big Q: Where did you go the first time you flew in an airplane?

When we asked readers to share their memories of their first flight, their enthusiastic responses included a few surprises.

I was in high school and a little nervous. It was a short flight from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, where we were connecting on our way to San Diego. As the plane started its descent, the little girl behind me yelled excitedly, “We’re going down!” Her mother was quick to respond, “Please, honey, say,
‘We’re landing.’”

Chris Nelson
Oberlin, Kansas

My first flight was from El Salvador to the USA, after my dad was called to plant a Covenant church in Turlock, California. I will never forget that flight, leaving all my extended family and friends behind and coming to a whole different world.

Karen Figueroa Galdamez
Los Angeles, California

It was a United prop plane from San Francisco to Chicago in August 1957. I was headed for my freshman year at North Park. My mother bought me a white shirt and tie because, she told me, everyone dressed up for airplane flights. It was a three-meal flight and took about seven hours. It was a great trip for a seventeen-year-old. I felt pretty important traveling alone in my shirt and tie. Most of all, that flight connected me to lifelong friends and wonderful years at North Park.

Bob Bach
Angels Camp, California

We flew from Minneapolis with a flight change in New Jersey to attend Women Ministries Triennial in North Carolina. The most memorable part of the trip was the return flight when my carry-on went through the scanner. I had collected a few rocks to bring home, but the authorities seemed to think they were cocaine, which I did not understand at the time. The poor guy was trying to do his job and my friend Jan Heitschmidt was taking pictures and laughing. There was no taking me into a separate room—this was right by the belt and in front of everyone else. We still laugh about it today.

Betty Kilian
Ogilvie, Minnesota

I flew with my parents and sister from Chicago to Orlando to visit an aunt and uncle. I remember not sitting with anyone in my family and getting food poisoning from a packet of mayonnaise that went into the little airline sandwich.

Deborah Sherman
Frisco, Texas

My first flight was in 1966 in a twin-engine plane from Circle, Alaska, to Fort Yukon, eight miles over the Arctic Circle. I was twelve years old, and my parents, brother, and I were on a six-week adventure. A few years later I decided to get my pilot’s license. Although I could not get in the hours I needed and still pay for college, I never regretted the experience and I love flying to this day.

Chris Pickett
Crystal Lake, Illinois

My confirmation gift from my grandmother was to fly me from Detroit to Madison to visit her sisters, my great-aunts, in 1962.

Peggy Gasow

In 1968 my confirmation teacher was a pilot and he took all of us confirmands for a ride in a Cessna 172 from San Carlos, California, to Columbia, California. After that, I went on to pursue a twenty-eight-year career in missionary aviation.

Kevin Swanson
Englewood, New Jersey

In January 1960, after my husband and I were married, we flew from Anchorage to Unalakleet, Alaska. We lived there for the next eighteen months, flying in and out several times. The most memorable flight was in a small plane with Covenant missionary pilot Ronald Amundsen, flying above the clouds on June 21 at 2:30 a.m. with the pink peak of Mt. McKinley in full view.

Margaret Larson
Two Harbors, Minnesota

I was fifteen and had just finished my sophomore year in high school. I flew from Chicago to Denver to work at Covenant Heights Bible Camp in Estes Park for the summer.

Joan Wallgren
Winnetka, Illinois

I was eight years old, and it was pre-Castro 1952 when our family flew from Key West, Florida, to Cuba for Christmas. My only strong memory was getting lost in Havana and wondering if we would ever find our hotel. I guess we did!

David Johnson
Knoxville, Tennessee

My first flight was to a Covenant Midwinter Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I was a youth pastor in Duluth, Minnesota, and was traveling with several other Covenant pastors, including my new senior pastor, Kendall L. Carlson. The flight attendant told a man to put out his cigarette during takeoff. His response was to squeeze the end
and toss it behind him. It landed in the cuff of Pastor Doug Olson’s pant leg. Amidst our laughter, we had a difficult time trying to communicate to Doug that his pants were smoking. I also threw up in the airline-provided bag.

Paul Knight
Grand Forks, North Dakota

I visited my dad in North Carolina. I was thirteen and my dad, stepmom, and little sister had recently moved. I was a huge daddy’s girl, and I was considering moving down to live with them. The flight was scary and so much fun at the same time. Everyone was happy and accommodating. I sat by a lady who was flying to see her great-grandson and we had a conversation about the Bible and church. She was sweet and said she would include me and my family in her prayers.

Marissa L. Rapoza
Swansea, Massachusetts

My first flight was from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was heading to my first year at university for the fall semester in 1970. My sister and brother-in-law saw me off at the gate, which was allowed back then. Knowing I was nervous, my brother-in-law pointed out the pilot and told me, “He’s a student pilot and I overheard him saying this would be his first time landing the plane.” This did not improve my anxiety level, and I’m sure I sent up some extra prayers that day. The landing was perfectly smooth.

Ruth Hamilton
Hoquiam, Washington

My first flight was on New Year’s Day from San Jose, California, to Los Angeles—we actually traveled round trip in one day. My dad, a University of Minnesota alum, was able to get tickets to the Rose Bowl. The Gophers won, beating UCLA 21-3. What a thrill for a young sports loving boy! Alas, that was in 1962 and the Gophers haven’t been to Pasadena on New Year’s Day since.

Dennis Carlson
Farmington Hills, Michigan

When I was at North Park College a friend knew I had never flown and planned to surprise me and put me on a plane home to Buffalo, New York. All my other trips home had been by Greyhound, usually at night, with a dreary wait in the Cleveland bus depot each time. My friend said he was putting me on a train, but first we had to stop at O’Hare—I can’t remember the details of the story he cooked up. He checked my suitcase without my knowing and then gave me a ticket and put me on the plane! I was truly scared; the woman across the aisle saw it and sympathized. My parents were waiting for me in Buffalo when we landed about an hour later. Amazing!

Elaine M. Clauson
Carol Stream, Illinois

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  1. My first flight was a spring break trip to Florida in 1975, junior year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My best friend was seated beside me. She hadn’t flown before either. Both of us were scared, but I tried not to show it while the plane was on the runway. She was scared then. But upon take-off, she was the one calming me down!

  2. My first jet plane trip was in the spring of 1976 way back when meals were always a part of the ticket price. The itinerary is uninteresting (roundtrip between Houston and Corpus Christi) but I still remember a brief conversation I had on the plane. On the return flight back into Houston the evening meal was T-bone steak and red wine. “Wow!”, I said as I turned to my fellow traveler, who also seemed to be about my age at that time (about 21). “Can you believe it! Steak and wine. That’s pretty good, don’t you think?”

    This young man turned to me (I am not making this up!) with a sour scowl on his face and spat out “The only reason they’re doing this is because they’re forced to, in order to compete!”

    I was speechless. I turned back to my steak and wine quietly thinking to myself “Three cheers for competition” and thoroughly enjoyed my meal, this young man’s sour attitude having no effect whatsoever on my own personal enjoyment.

    Whatever came of this person I don’t know, but I have told his story in a sermon or two over the years, when I’ve preached about having an attitude of gratitude.

  3. My first flight was 1969. I was a new North Park College graduate flying to New York City to attend graduate school at Columbia University, Teachers College. My father was working in NYC as a civil engineer on the World Trade Center. As we descended, I remember viewing the Statue of Liberty. Years later, I saw the completed twin towers with my family just six weeks before the planes hit.

  4. I am amazed at how many of us had our first flight be to/from a Covenant Church-related event. For me it was flying from Boston, MA to Denver, CO (via Atlanta, GA.) to attend CHIC ’80. That was a great experience! Both the week in the Colorado Rockies, and my first flights!

    The first time that I flew without family or friends was 10 years later to attend my Sister’s graduation at North Park, strange part was getting myself to the airport in Rhode Island, but being met by my parents (who had driven out to Chicago earlier) at O’Hare! My sister still jokes about being “jealous” that she never had our parents pick her up or see her off at O’Hare…… but they did that for me!

  5. In 1962 I flew from San Francisco, California to New York City on my adventure as a summer American Field Service student to Sweden. Somehow my papers got left at home, so there was a hurried return to get them in Danville., All dressed-up in heels and dress, I made it safely and then boarded the Arosa Kulm for a two week sea voyage to Bremerhaven, Germany and on to Sweden. What a surprise to realize that even the cats spoke a different language, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty” didn’t do it!

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