"My daughter kept saying, 'Come on, Mom, you've got to do this. You got to give it a try one more time.'"
So she did. In October 2009, she called Northern Wings Flight School at Executive Air and made an appointment to renew her flying license.
After her first lesson with flight instructor Ernie Jackson, she said, "I knew he was going to be someone very special to me."
Ernie Jackson said his wife of 50 years had died, and then his son passed away a year later. "I was getting lonely. They say people who are married live longer."
Brenda and Ernie Jackson were married two years ago.
Ernie Jackson has taught people how to fly planes since 1969. One of his early students was Joe Beam, who owns Skylane Flight School, also at Executive Air. It was Beam who helped Brenda Jackson prepare for the flight test for instructor certification when health problems grounded her husband. "Ernie, Joe and Al [LaDriere] helped me with the written part," she said.
Jackson was asked what had changed in the 20-plus years since she had flown an airplane. "Gas prices got a lot higher," she answered.
She added that there are more restrictions for landing at Yeager, and there were no GPS systems when she first learned to fly. There is still, though, the sense of freedom, of not being bound to earth, that Jackson loves about flying. "It's out and out awesome."
She describes herself as a cautious flier, stressing safety first. "I've been called a chicken quite a few times. I say, 'I would rather be a live chicken than a dead duck.' I would like to continue to live a lot longer and fly more years."
Ernie Jackson said he knew his wife would make a good teacher, and he encouraged her to become certified. "It's not easy," he said.
He doesn't remember any other female flight instructor at Executive or its predecessor, Eagle Aviation.
With her instrument a rating and instructor's license, Ernie Jackson wants his wife to shoot for a certificate add-on to be able to teach flying by instruments in bad weather.
He pointed out that at 78, he's significantly older than his 53-year-old wife. "I want her to do everything. When I am not around, she'll have the abilities to work with. She'll have an occupation and be able to run the business."
Reach Rosalie Ea...@ea...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.