Thursday, January 14, 2016

Article - Stories from a Night Express Caravan Cargo Pilot - Romance by Bob Tilden

Stories from a Night Express Caravan Cargo Pilot

by Bob Tilden

I walked through shallow puddles of water as I made my way to the airplane. The sky was dull but not at all disagreeable, with passable visibility under a low overcast. For the first time in almost a month the temperature was above freezing, but a barely perceptible drizzle dampened the thrill. I regarded our two airplanes as I walked towards them in the fading light of late afternoon, and thought "there is no romance today".

The morning had dawned with the same gray sky that now hovered overhead, but the morning's drizzle froze to the airplanes and the taxiways. For the second time in the week, I had been stranded in Rochester for the day because of freezing rain, and that fact alone had made me a bit grumpy.

Sunset view from the cargo Caravan

I don't know if I subconsciously edited my thoughts about romance, but after the thought had passed through my mind, I was glad that I hadn't thought "the romance is gone". The thought of "gone" would have been ominous, but a temporary loss is understandable. Still, it was an alarming thought.

It had been a long time since a flight had made me feel like a little kid at Disneyland. It seemed that there had been an unending string of days where the earth disappeared shortly after takeoff and reappeared only a few minutes prior to landing. Some of those flights had been on top of the clouds, in starlight or bright sunlight, but maybe just a few minutes a day of sunshine aren't enough to keep my batteries charged.

This was sort of an unusual flight because we would be flying our planes empty, back to Elmira to pick up the evening load and return to Rochester with it. I thought that it was kind of neat to be able to jump into the plane and go, without waiting for loading or paperwork. It was almost as though I was in my own plane.

The last light of day had all but faded into night as I left the ground and climbed into the clouds. There was no romance; I just sat there doing some paperwork and watching the temperature drop as I gained altitude, expecting icing temperatures at any moment. After climbing through a mile of murky gray, just as the temperature dropped to freezing, I broke through the tops into a clear sky.

I had climbed from night into twilight. Above the layer of clouds was the last few minutes of the day's sunset, orange and red along the horizon and fading rapidly through the blues into black. To my left, a big orange moon had just cleared the cloud deck, and shined its light across the gleaming ocean of white below me. Orion the hunter, an evening constellation in the early fall, but a sunset constellation in the late spring, was almost overhead.

The sight of the day's last colors is something that we start to see in April, with our usual eight o'clock departure times. This evening was sort of an early preview, a reassurance that winter is not forever.. With Orion overhead at sunset, there was no mistaking February for April, but perhaps the spirits were sending me a small morsel to tide me until spring.

The seasons and their weather are a continuous ebb and flow, but the worst is past. The days are starting to gain strength and the force of each new winter blast will be dulled and shortened. Grass will green, birds will sing, and flowers will bloom. The world will be a safer place for romance.

*The author Bob Tilden flew a Caravan for a Night Express cargo company for 10 years and has also written a book, Gone Flyin'. To order it, visit or search Gone Flyin' on

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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