Recently I had the opportunity to fly out of Horace Williams Airport with local pilot and UNC graduate Bob Epting. Though the airport is scheduled to close in May, following a resolution by the UNC Board of Trustees, the flight easily ranks in my top 10 all-time greatest experiences.
I arrived at the airport after a five-minute ride from campus and walked down to Epting’s hangar, where a beautiful, bright yellow Piper Cub plane was basking in the mid-afternoon sun. Piper Cubs don’t have lots of rows with screaming babies like a commercial jet — just two seats, one in the back and one in the front.
I had the front seat, and I had two jobs: to turn the fuel switch on and to pull the carburetor heat. I'm not 100 percent sure what the carburetor heat does, but it felt important.
There’s no switch to turn the propeller on, so it had to be cranked by hand. After that was done, we taxied toward the runway. There was no half-hour wait on the runway, like at huge commercial airports. We received the all clear and off we went.
It was one of the shortest take-offs in my life. Within seconds we were overlooking the city. Seeing Chapel Hill from a bird’s-eye view is one of the most spectacular things I have witnessed. If you think Chapel Hill feels like home, wait until you’re 2,000 feet above, looking at the growing grass on McCorkle Place and people walking down Franklin Street. Over South Campus, I could see a lacrosse game being played in Kenan Memorial Stadium.