I may be descended from bootleggers or bankers, tradesmen or kings. I may have soldiers’ grit in my blood, the courage of explorers, or the soul of poets past. But I know for a fact that I was born with a desire for wings.
I told grade school classmates in New Jersey that my family tree included the Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk fame. Maybe it was those vacations on the Outer Banks or my mother’s maiden name (Wright, of course). Or was it the story my paternal grandmother told of laying on her back in the high prairie grasses on the Canadian border as a young girl, finding pictures in the clouds? Better yet, maybe I inhaled that desire on a flight from Phoenix to Detroit on a Lockheed Constellation (or Connie, as she was affectionately known) as a three-month old in my mother’s arms, the first of many long-hauls.
What a happy coincidence, then, to learn of a true family connection to one of the pioneers of aviation. Merle Moltrup, an uncle several times removed but still bearing the family name of my maternal great grandparents, flew the first commercial air mail route on April 21, 1927 from Cleveland OH to Bettis Field near Pittsburgh. Moltrup piloted the Miss Youngstown, and arrived first at Bettis, followed by Dewey Noyes in the Miss Pittsburgh, and finally Kenneth “Curly” Lovejoy in the Miss McKeesport. The story has it that Lovejoy had to wait for delayed incoming mail in Cleveland from the already established transcontinental route, then battled blinding rain and high winds to get the mail through to the final destination. Moltrup went on to pilot jets for Eastern Airlines.
Desire. You needn’t be born with it; I believe you can grow it. Just breathe.
I don’t know if Moltrup was born with a natural desire to travel the world or a love for tinkering and for the union of man and machine. Perhaps he was just a daredevil looking for a thrill. I do love the destination and all it brings – coastal highways and high speed trains, foreign currency and local cuisine. But even more I love that moment of take off, when some ‘other’ is in control, when I can surrender my will and look to the clouds. And beyond the clouds, always blue sky.