SOARING AT ANY AGE

Castle is a hard woman to get a hold of. If she isn’t volunteering at an area hospital, dining with her girlfriends at one of the many local restaurants or swimming a few laps in the fitness center, there’s a good possibility that she’s up in the air…literally. That’s because Sue, a 78-year-old resident of Rydal Park, is a former pilot who still enjoys the view from above…when her schedule permits, of course.

After Sue’s husband passed away when she was 54, she became interested in flying. Following a close friend’s recommendation, Sue began working at the flight school at Wings Field Airport in Blue Bell, PA as a way to pass time. Serving as the flight school’s administrator, she was responsible for maintaining the flight schedule and, in turn, got to know several of the flight instructors and students. Having been immersed in the flying atmosphere every day, it wasn’t long before Sue got the itch herself to learn to fly.

After flight instructions and several hours of solo flying, Sue became the first person in her family to become a pilot when she received her recreational pilot license in 1994 at 58 years old. As a recreational pilot, Sue spent more than 10 years flying for fun and sometimes flying friends around in a four-seat plane. After every flight, Sue was meticulous about logging her flight information and still has her flight book to this day. According to her log book, her last piloted flight was on September 17, 2006, at 70 years old.

“I always loved taking off when I was flying,” Sue said. “Feeling all that power in your hands and the whoosh as you left the ground was so exciting. I didn’t like the landings all that much, though.”

Sue isn’t the only female resident in Abington with a love of aviation. 85-year-old Betty Skinner, mother of Rydal Park Executive Director Stuart Skinner, is a former flight instructor who first got her private pilot license in 1975. Betty has more than 7,000 hours of flight time logged and was involved in training a former member of the Blue Angels.

“I was involved in teaching one pilot who went on to be a Blue Angel,” she recalls. “My boss picked me to train him. He was a natural, very easy to teach and received his license in minimum hours. He joined the Navy, became a Blue Angel, and now flies for Southwest Airlines.”

Though neither Betty nor Sue get behind the controls these days, both still have a strong passion for aviation. Sue still enjoys taking rides in the sky with the friends she’s made at Wings over the last 20 years. And no matter how busy she gets, she never misses her weekly Friday night outing for dinner and drinks with her girlfriends at the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club located at Wings Field.

Although she initially gained interest in flying to occupy her time after her husband passed away, Sue’s love of flying has allowed her to truly define Spirited Living.