'My Time to Play'

Nancy Meyer demonstrates a preflight check on a plane at the airport in Merlin. Julia Moore photoJulia Moore

When Nancy Meyer makes a preflight check on the blue and white Cessna 152, she examines everything from the propeller to the tail.

She does everything but kick the tires.

"I've always wanted to fly," the Medford resident says. "But I was raising children and felt that was the No. 1 priority. Then I was helping take care of grandchildren. Now it is my turn."

Meyer, 74, is a licensed student pilot, which means she can fly on her own or with an instructor.

She began taking flying lessons 18 months ago at Pacific Aviation, based at the Josephine County airport in Merlin. She has passed the written test and taken short solos into the wild blue yonder in the small Cessna.

Once the weather improves this spring, she plans to fly with an examiner across the rugged Siskiyou Mountains to Crescent City, then to Medford, and back to Merlin to complete her required cross-country solo flight to become a full-fledged pilot.

"It's a perfect time in my life to do this," she says. "I'm in good health. This is my time to play."

Born Nancy Forest in Yakima, Wash., she married Dave Meyer, a U.S. Air Force pilot whose service included the Vietnam War. The couple have lived on military bases from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Nancy Meyer got a taste for flying in small private planes when she sold land in the Columbia River Gorge with a fellow real estate agent.

"She was a pilot, and we would go out and take pictures of the properties we were listing," she recalls. "I loved doing that."

Meyer had other items on her bucket list to check off along the way.

"Being a military wife, we moved every few years, and I always found something to do in every town," she says. "I even managed an architectural engineering firm in Portland."

There were the two stints in which she had her own television show and served as a newscaster. That was in upstate New York and later in Louisiana.

"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to have my own television show — I had it," she says. "I wanted to be a newscaster — did that. I wanted to be a fashion model — I've done that. I wanted to have kids — did that."

The fashion model work was in Spokane, before her TV days.

As for children, the Meyers have a grown son and daughter and five grandchildren, checking off another item on life's to-do list.

Another goal was to have a long, successful marriage. They have been married for nearly 55 years.

"I tell him not to get cocky — he's still on trial," she says with a chuckle.

She decided to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot after they retired in Medford a little more than a decade ago.

"She is a great student — she studies all the time," says Brett Hopper, 32, a flight instructor and commercial pilot at Pacific Aviation.

"She tells me she has dreams about flying," he adds with a laugh.

"I do — I do," Nancy says.

Hopper had his pilot's license within a year of graduating from Grants Pass High School in 1998. He later earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautics.

"We have two major groups coming to us to become pilots," Hopper says. "We have those who are just out of high school, and those whose kids have grown up and moved out. With the older group, this is something they've always wanted to do.

"Nancy is a bit older than the average, but definitely not the oldest out here flying," he says.

The firm also has several students who are in middle school, he says, noting they can't fly solo until they are 16.

"I would like to get my instrument rating and fly something a little hotter plane than this," Meyer says of the little Cessna.

"She is already talking about turbo props," Hopper says.

"You bet," she says.

She has never flown with her husband, who stopped piloting airplanes when he retired from the military.

"He said a long time ago that he will fly with me when I get my license," she says. "But when I remind him of that, he does kind of hedge a little now. 'We're going to have to see,' he tells me."

Dave Meyer, now a retired lieutenant colonel with some 7,000 hours in the cockpit, including in B-52 bombers, says he will be her passenger one day.

"I don't think there is any way I can weasel out of it," he says, tongue firmly held in cheek.

In all seriousness, he is quick to observe that she knows more about flying civilian aircraft than he does.

"I've never flown a civilian airplane," he says. "I quit flying 35 years ago, and things have changed a lot since then. There are new air space restrictions, all kinds of things."

The point, he says, is that she definitely would be in the driver's seat when they fly together.

"But I suppose I could take over if she had a heart attack or something," he allows.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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