"Faust sold his soul for very few things;
the ability to fly was one of them."
When Les Nixon visited his old solo field in December 1997, he remembered that Laurence Gonzales, an aerobatic pilot said: "Faust sold his soul for very few things; the ability to fly was one of them."
Gonzales also said in Challenge, "Flying is one of the most primitive dreams of the human imagination, but it's rarely a reality." Why? The physical act of piloting a plane is no harder than driving a car while talking on the phone—and it's less dangerous. The truth is most people don't fly because they think it's so scary.
Nixon went back to his lonely old airfields in Toledo, Erie, Findlay, and Sandusky in the US this year, and thought of his first flying back in 1960.
His solo went like this: He had about 4-official hours in his brand-spanking- new log book. Up till this week in he'd not at much as sniffed a light plane up close. In fact, he hadn't given it a thought until a missionary pilot said he always wanted to fly in Australia, but South America was his field. Say, on the side, if you thought you'd like to fly, go out and see Fred and tell him I sent you. That did it. Fred taught and that missionary paid. It was $8 per-hour.
As it was he was practicing touch-and-go's in an Aroneca Champ, like a Piper Cub, on a snowy grass strip and it was bitterly cold outside. Fred yelled over the noisy motor: "Hey Les, pull over and leave the motor running." He got out and shouted above the engine, "Take it around and come back here. Have fun. But hurry, I'm cold!" He slammed the flap shut!
Nixon sat frozen for a whole minute—but not because of the cold. He remembers thinking, "Do I really want to be a solo pilot, or am I just foolin' myself?" He pushed the flimsy throttle forward, kicked the rudders around, headed up the strip and deftly lifted the tail, eased her off the ground still terrified it would not work without Fred. There he was alone, watching the world reduce in a winter fog, mostly from fear than weather. Less than a minute, he was utterly lost—lost in euphoria.
No time to waste ... Fred's frozen.
He eventually went on to earn his FAA SEAL private license at Detroit, and after the suitable exams and check ride, his Australian PPL and Command IFR. Since then, he's flown the entire Australian continent many times, in the US IFR in 1988 all the way around, and Asia, too. Even in retirement, he checked out in a C210 at Orlando's Executive Airport in 1997 and can fly anywhere he wishes.
Since 1961, when he began Outback Patrol he has encouraged other pilots to do the same. And scores of them flew a patrol or two, have moved up the ladder into commercial and airline flying.
But that flight at Sharon, Pennsylvania on a winter's day in1960 because of a mission pilot who cared, was the first time he knew what it was to take his life in his hands. He could scream and yell, and pull his hair out and issue commands into the radio endlessly, but only his own hands and skill would bring him back to earth again.
Most people never take that responsibility upon themselves, because it's scary. There's always a back door. But if we sink in a boat or get stranded in the desert, usually it's a pilot who comes for us. Or doctors to remote places, or missionaries where others do not go. He wanted to be that person.
For Nixon, it was also the quiet confidence that this is what God had for him to do. He read, 'underneath are the everlasting arms' from the Scripture, and in later years, Psalm 121 which says, He will 'protect your going out and your coming in'.
This year he's done it again, and will repeat it in the service of helping people in remote places come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, too.