|Photo by Sonia Zimmerman
By Barbara A. Schmitz
They'll have traveled 10,000 miles by the time they return to their home near Fairbanks, Alaska, in early August.
But the highlight of their two-month trip happened under the Brown Arch on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds earlier this week.
That's where Stuart Sibitzky surprised his wife, Cynthia, with a brick declaring his love. The inscription on their wedding rings is an old Johnny Mathis song, and it is now there for all to see: I needed someone all the time. And all the time it was you.
"I had the brick put in three or four months back," Stuart said, "and she didn't know anything about it."
The trip is their fifth cross-country trip from Alaska to anywhere. But this one started a few weeks earlier than they expected when a granddaughter was born in May. Cynthia flew to Texas commercially, and three weeks later, Stuart flew in with their Cessna 182 to join her.
After that, they flew to Tulsa to see other grandchildren, and then to Kitty Hawk and the Baltimore area where Cynthia had a conference.
"Then we had three weeks to go between the conference and Oshkosh, so we went to Concord, New Hampshire, parked for almost two weeks, and drove around New England," Cynthia said.
"We really played the tourist game," Stuart said.
Next, they went to Scranton to see the Steamtown National Historic Site, and then stopped in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. "There are no lakes or hills," Stuart said.
They were ready to leave on July 18 to come to Oshkosh when they discovered if they drove to Oshkosh it would save them $670 instead of flying here and renting a car, Stuart said. So they left their plane in Illinois.
The Sibitzkys plan to stay here until Monday, and then fly directly back home to Alaska. Both are pilots. Since Stuart is a CFI with 6,500 hours logged, Cynthia took lessons from him.
"In the middle of the night, I would wake him up and say, 'Tell me about power-on stalls again,'" she said. "Then, I was getting my hair cut one time, and the hairdresser asked me if it was expensive to take flying lessons. I gave a flip answer and said, 'No, I just sleep with my instructor!'"
However, since a student's parent was two chairs down, she quickly explained what she meant.
Cynthia now has her private pilot certificate and has logged 600 hours in the air. In fact, her certificate arrived on the very day she turned 50.
It's a little different to fly in Alaska than other states.
"One of the things they always teach you is look for a place to put down," Cynthia said. "There are thousands of miles of nothing, so you have to be careful," Stuart added. "If we were here with the airplane, we'd probably be the only people on the ramp with a full set of survival gear—a full-sized axe, a bow saw, a 24-by-30 foot blue tarp, water, and more."
In their third trip to AirVenture, the Sibitzkys said they are looking forward to being immersed in aviation for the remainder of the fly-in convention.
"He is so into airplanes," Cynthia said, "so it's fun to watch him talk shop."