First plane ride comes on 80th birthday

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2003

One might say Allene Martin was ‘sky high’ Friday over her 80thbirthday present.

She was.

Friends and family helped Martin, a Brookhaven resident,celebrate her birthday in the lobby of Brookhaven Municipal Airportbefore she climbed aboard a prop engine plane for her firstairplane ride.

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“I’ve always wanted to fly, and my first opportunity has come onmy 80th birthday,” she said before the flight. “I’ve never flown,but I’m fixing to. I’m really excited.”

The flight was a gift from her daughter, Gay Laird. Lairdorganized the flight with help from a friend, pilot PaulBarnett.

“I wanted to fulfill that wish,” Barnett said. “I had a blast. Ilike taking people up, especially for the first time.”

Approximately 30 of Martin’s family and friends watched as sheaccomplish the milestone.

“My slogan has always been I want to fly before I die,” Martinsaid with a laugh as she walked toward the aircraft.

The gathering shared a lot of laughs and good-natured jokes atBarnett’s expense when the plane refused to start from lack ofpower, and Barnett joined in with them.

Martin opened the window and shouted, “Y’all, I’m not lying. Wegot troubles. I knew it would be exciting, but not like this.”

As the laughter began to die down, she yelled, “I knew it wouldgo kerplunk. I’m just glad it’s still on the ground.”

Martin never wavered from her desire to go airborne and neverleft her seat as the plane received a jump start.

The crowd watched Barnett and Martin circle Brookhaven severaltimes. During one circle, Barnett buzzed the runway so Martin couldsee everyone watching them.

Laird screamed in surprise and joy.

“She’s got more nerve than I’ve got,” she said. “I wouldn’t dothat. I’m afraid of flying.”

Barnett and Martin circled Brookhaven for about 10 to 15 minutesbefore landing.

A giddy and smiling Martin immediately opened the door and beganwaving to everyone.

“I really enjoyed every minute of it,” she said. “I couldn’ttell what was what though. Paul tried to point a few buildings outto me, but they all looked like little boxes to me.”

When a friend asked if the experience “had taken her breathaway,” Martin said “there ain’t nothing like it, but it didn’t takemy breath away.”

Barnett said Martin was an excellent passenger and smiled thewhole time.

“She was very calm and didn’t have one nervous bone in her,” hesaid.

When asked if she was ready to go again tomorrow, she laughedand replied that she thought she better wait until next week.

“I wouldn’t mind going anywhere with a good pilot,” she added,”and Paul is a good pilot.”