My alternative lifestyle: It's a love that has wings, a countercultural calling that turns restraint into liberation

By Ron Belgau

“Looks about half full,” I say as I hand the dipstick to Mark. I’m awkwardly perched on the wing strut of a Cessna 172 under a drizzly Northwest sky. I tighten the fuel cap and climb down from the wing, then walk around to the other wing and climb up. After checking the oil level, looking for water in the fuel and inspecting the control surface linkages, we strap in and go through the pre-start checklist. The engine rumbles to life, and we taxi out to the runway. We go through another checklist, then Mark opens up the throttle. We’re off, down the runway and into the battleship gray sky.…

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