Dear November 666 Echo X-ray,

This past year has not been good for flying, for either of us. If I’m honest, the past two years have been pretty grim. Keeping up-to-date and flying takes a lot of time and both Cliff and I have been so busy, it’s difficult to make time for you. And then when I’ve wanted to fly, you’ve invariably been in the wrong place: sunning yourself at Málaga airport when we had a weekend free in Scotland, passing the time at North Weald when we were sitting in Málaga and so on and so forth. I’m not trying to put the blame on you, but from a logistical point of view, it’s been a bit of a nightmare.

I haven’t actually flown at all in 2010. Twice this year, I managed to align the stars such that you and I were in the same country at the same time with spare time to go on a trip and both times, the weather has been such that you didn’t want to go. Sure, I could have put in the time to get my instrument licence but I didn’t want to complicate things. Anyway, it’s not just about the weather.

Meanwhile, you started to act starved for attention, insisting on regular maintenance even though we weren’t flying – or even wanting extra maintenance because we weren’t flying. You’ve not made a big secret of it. Engineers who I barely know have told me that you need to go flying more, that you are feeling neglected. It has been clear for a while now that our relationship isn’t fulfilling your needs.

Sometimes it is difficult to make a change. I’ve felt for a while like I was stuck in a rut but it was just too much effort to do something about it. Sometimes people stay in a relationship not because it’s good but because it’s convenient.

After all these years together, I was used to you and your quirks. I loved taking you to new airfields, showing you off. Every pilot was jealous that you were with me, it was a buzz. But in the end, we weren’t going anywhere, we weren’t doing anything. Our relationship was based on nostalgia, not passion.

There’s no easy way to say this. I think it’s for the best if we don’t see each other any more.

It’s not someone else – no one could ever replace you! I will enjoy being without a commitment, I think. It’ll be nice to be able to try out a number of different planes, a few lessons here, a few hours there. A lot more convenient and a lot less pressure. I’ll be hanging out at the clubs to see what I think, maybe have a fling with an aerobatic plane. But you probably don’t want to hear about that.

It’s not you, it’s me. I know you want a commitment, someone who wants to fly you all the time. And that’s not right for me, not right now. Maybe someday.

So, it seems like this is goodbye. I’ve loved being with you, don’t you ever forget that. Do you remember the time the autopilot broke right as we were flying over the Alps with my mother in the back-seat trying to work out what was happening? Or how about when I took a wrong turn and you ended up half a foot deep in mud? And then that time when I missed the runway and we took out a landing light at Oxford. Yeah, good times. We had a lot of good times.

Well, I guess this is it. I’m sure you’ll be really happy with your new pilot. He seems a nice bloke, down to earth. He’s really crazy about you.

You take care of yourself, OK? And if you find yourself at a loose end, give me a call. I’d love to get together for a quick circuit or two, find out how you are doing.

I’ve got to go. I just, I got a bit of dust in my eye. I’ll be fine. You go on, get flying. You’ve been on the ground too long.

Love,

* Sylvia *

After much discussion, Cliff and I have decided to sell the Saratoga II TC. The plane was snapped up by a Dutch pilot who was looking for a cruiser and loves Pipers and I’m sure he’ll be very happy with the Saratoga. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to exploring different options and hopefully spending more time flying and less time worrying about maintenance and paperwork issues.