Posts Tagged ‘came a flight gently’

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Leigh Dreyer back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time with her father and co-author Paul Trockner, to celebrate the release of Came a Flight Gently, the final installment of the Pride in Flight Series, which is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. Those of you who know me well know that I adore modern versions of Austen’s novels, and I can’t wait to finally get a chance to read these. Leigh and Paul are here today to share a bit about the research process for the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

(Paul) As a pilot this was the fun part for me.  First I went to the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) website and learned about the various classes and race courses for the event.  There’s lots of linked rabbit holes there to the different class websites, the various class rules etc.  Some of the class websites also had the requirements for pilots and the presentations made to the pilots available.  So I read through those.  The racers call a pylon race “non-cooperative formation”.  So having flown formation in the Air Force that was easy to relate to.  Then on to YouTube while I was walking on the treadmill.  There’s everything from old race videos to pilots describing the modifications they made to their aircraft.  Leigh chose the Lancair after our visit to Reno. So I found a Lancair pilot Youtube and watched that. Before the second book came out we visited the Reno Air Races and talked to some of the pilots and got insight to the training required and problems they had.  Pilots generally are a gregarious bunch when talking about airplanes and flying so for me that was fun.  Finally for the racing portion, the Lancair factory is about an hour away from my home.  So I made arrangements for a visit and talked to Conrad Huffstutler, Lancair President and Reno racer.  I asked for 15 minutes and he generously gave me about 2 hours of his time.  We talked about racing, the course, some tips and how he got started.  Then he showed me his aircraft named “Breathless”.  “Breathless” because it doesn’t have a turbocharged engine.  In it, he won first place in the Silver race in 2019.  Mr. Huffstutler also talked about modifications to the aircraft that had been done or that he considered.  I am really thankful to him as he confirmed some of the things I’d already written.  There was more but as Leigh kept reminding me it’s a romance novel with flying.

Darcy’s military flying was either based on my experience or other stories from people I’d flown with in the service.  Going to an airshow and showing off your cool fighter is one of the best ways to give yourself an ego boost. 

(Leigh) The civilian transition for Elizabeth, I based on my transition after the military.  Military vs Civilian flying are really two different mindsets.  Not better or worse just different.  The difficult part there was trying to make it relatable to the target audience of romance readers.  I had to be reminded that many would skip over something too technically detailed that’s not germane to the romance of the story or the romance of flight.  Elizabeth has both in the book.  I did search and YouTube Bonanza information and spoke to Dan Perry, a coworker who owns a Bonanza.  The American Bonanza Society website had information on the various types and provides training programs that I looked over. 

So summing up.  If you have an interest there’s probably a website to search or a YouTube out there to open up the rabbit hole. 

Excerpt from Chapter Five

“Come in or go out, but shut the door. I finally got it warm enough to work,” a gruff voice called from somewhere inside. She startled but did not move. “In or out, I don’t care. I don’t have any money and the hangar door is frozen shut. Just close the door!”

Elizabeth took a step in and closed the door behind her.

“Thank you! Now, we don’t have lessons. I only work here and don’t have time for side jobs,” came the voice from below the front of the Bonanza.

“I’m not looking for lessons or help,” she said, walking to the voice.

A tool fell to the ground, and she heard some muttering under the plane. “Well, what do you want?”

“I came to see the airplanes.”

“I’d give you a tour but I’m busy. Mrs. Reynolds does all the tours at the big house down the road. Call her and I’m sure she can get you fixed up.”

Elizabeth asked, “May I help?”

“Sure,” the voice said sarcastically. “Do you know what an oil filter wrench looks like?”

“Cap or wrap around?” queried Elizabeth as she turned around, looking around the walls and seeing toolboxes, a large work bench, and various compartments for mechanical paraphernalia.

“Wrap around”—hands appeared from under the plane and pointed—“toolbox on the wall, second drawer, and bring the shallow oil pan, and put it on the bench by the nose.”

“Okay,” she said and worked her way to the toolbox and collected the items. By the time she found the wrench and turned around, the engine of the Bonanza was uncovered, and the body of the voice was back underneath, his coveralls exposed.

“Wrench,” came the command, and she slapped the wrench into his hand like an experienced surgical nurse.

A couple grunts later, the man said, “Here, take the filter to the pan but don’t dump it. Careful, it will spill, and it’s a mess to get off the floor and your clothes.”

Elizabeth took the filter to the oil pan and did as directed, though the process was awkward in her too-large coat and gloves. The mechanic crawled off the floor and followed her.

“Grab that filter cutter.” He nodded with his nose while taking the filter. Placing the cutter over the filter, he cut around carefully and removed the bottom plate. He discarded it and poured the oil. “We’re looking for any metal chunks. There shouldn’t be any.” He took out the filter paper and unwrapped each fold. “Where’d you get that coat? Kinda big for ya. You realize you can order different sizes?”

“My husband’s,” Elizabeth answered, studying the unfolding paper. “Do you send the oil off for spectroanalysis?”

“Not this time. Only every other change,” he said. She noticed him looking at her out the corner of his eye. He pointed again.

When she returned to the table, the mechanic spoke once more. “Have to change her oil every fifty hours. The boss flew it a bunch in December, at least two trips to Texas. Built up the hours quicker than I expected. Grab that new filter. The oil is over there.”

Elizabeth dutifully grabbed the new filter and pushed the oil cart over to the aircraft. The man returned underneath and asked for the safety wire pliers. Elizabeth spotted them within his easy reach. Handing them over, she realized what he had been doing. “That was a test, wasn’t it?”

“Yep,” he answered shortly. After coming back up, the man grabbed a clean, but well-used, funnel and filled the oil.

“Good news, bad news,” he said, looking at Elizabeth. “We’ve changed the oil, but the hangar door is frozen shut so we can’t run’er up and check for leaks.” He discarded the last oil bottle and looked down at her like a professor in a university auditorium. “What do you suggest we do?”

“Frozen at the base, hinge or top?” Elizabeth asked.


“Water, de-ice, shovel, or sledgehammer?”

“Based on the temperature,” he said as he walked across the hangar to a small closet, “water will make it thicker before we can shovel. I’ve got some salt and the sun might be on it by now. We’d break the shovel, but I just so happen to have two sledgehammers.”

“Great. Salt and sledges it is.”

He handed her a bucket full of salt and they tramped outside. Elizabeth felt the oppressive cold freeze her cheeks in seconds and shuddered. The large hangar door was just beginning to come into full sunlight. The mechanic showed her how and where to apply the salt for the best melting effect. Once they got across the entire door, he led her back inside.

“The office is there. Just shut the door. It’ll be nice and toasty for you.”


He pointed with his chin back behind them. “There’s two chairs by the office. On the other side, you’ll see a Navy-style coffee maker. It’s water. Hot chocolate, coffee, creamer, and apple cider are alongside. I’ve got to see a man about a horse and will join you in a few.”

Elizabeth settled down to warm herself with some hot chocolate and was blowing the steam from the top when the mechanic returned. Now that they were out of the dimness of the hangar and he was not under an aircraft, she could size him up. He was about six feet tall, with short gray hair and about two hundred pounds. His coveralls were used but neat. He was clean shaven with glasses and a kind smile, surprising, considering the quiz she had just received.

“How’d you find this place?” he asked as he sat down with a cup of coffee.

“Mrs. Reynolds sent me down.”

 “I don’t need any help. I’m fifty-nine, not seventy-nine, for heaven’s sake. I can handle the airplane.”

Elizabeth stifled a smile with her cup. “Maybe she thought with two you’d like an assistant.”

“We’ve had two planes before. When Will and Richard were learning to fly, we had a Citabria and the Bonanza. Mr. Darcy and I taught them. Will’s become a great little pilot, though I shouldn’t let him hear me call him little.” Chuckling, the mechanic continued. “No, not Mr. F-22 fighter pilot.” He straightened himself. “Of course, it’s not an A-10. Now, I think he just got done flying ‘38s.”

“Did you fly in the service?” Elizabeth asked, taking a sip.

“Yep, F-111s, two tours, T-37s in between, A-10s and T-38A and Cs. Around forty-three hundred hours. But what I’m most proud of is over two thousand instructor hours.”

“How’d you become a mechanic?”

“Retired from the service. Got into some financial trouble with my ex-wife. Mr. Darcy, Will’s dad, hired me as an assistant mechanic. I apprenticed for a year, then took over when the other retired.” He looked at her over his glasses. “You aren’t in trouble, are you?”

“No, no.” Elizabeth laughed.

“By the way, I’m Steve Weston,” he said, reaching out his hand.

“Elizabeth Ben—I mean—Elizabeth Darcy.”

“You one of their cousins or something?”

“Or something,” answered Elizabeth, not wanting to ruin the moment.

“Well, hot chocolate’s done. The salt’s probably worked so we have no excuse.”

They donned their gloves again and went back to the doors. The salt had worked and the ice on the doors only required a little persuasion with the sledgehammer. Elizabeth felt a thrill run through her with the physical labor and banging the ice off the door. It’s been too long since I’ve felt useful. After several minutes of work, the large doors creaked open, filling the warmer hangar with cold air.

“We need to work quick,” Mr. Weston called loudly to her from the other side of the hangar. “The block was heated, and it’s been in the hangar, but we need to get the runup done before it cools.”

The aircraft positioned and chocked, Mr. Weston opened the back door and started the engine to let it warm and cycle the propeller. Once shut down, he motioned over to Elizabeth and showed her where to look for leaks. When they found none, they closed the hangar doors and turned up the heater. It was six when they got all the covers put on the plane and it was ready to fly again another day.

“What can you tell me about the Lancair?” she asked, pointing to the candy apple red plane next to Darcy’s Bonanza.

“Not much,” Mr. Weston said as he filed various tools away into their places. “A friend of mine flew it in for Will a couple weeks ago on a ferry permit. The builder did a good job but didn’t fly it. I’ve got the paperwork and books on it. I’ve got to do a condition check and go through all the systems. It’ll take about two months. It has better technology than the Bonanza, well at least newer, composite fuselage, fuel injection. Updated glass cockpit inside. Comfortable, stable, fast, but you have to pay attention more than a 172. You got any time?”

She let her hand glide along the smooth painted wing as she listened. “I’ve my private license and about seventy hours in the T-6.”

“Tailwheel time, eh?”

“Uh, no. The new T-6. I was in the Air Force.”


She shifted uncomfortably as he examined at her. She could practically see the questions running through his mind, though he had not paused his work.

“Yeah, I had a mishap and was medically retired.”

“Hmm, you’ll have to tell me about it sometime. I worked as a safety for a bit, so I enjoy hearing about those things.”

After a pause, Elizabeth summoned the courage to ask: “Mr. Weston, do you still teach?”

“Flying or mechanics?”

“Flying is what I’m most interested in at the moment. I think I would like to get my commercial and become a CFI.”

“Can you afford it? The 172 down the road rents for a hundred and fifty dollars an hour.”

“I think so—my husband has a pretty good gig, and he’s a pilot, too, so I’m sure he’ll be supportive.”

“You’re young. How long have you been married?”

“Almost four months.”

“It will take some time away from him.”

“I think he’ll be okay with it.”

“Huh, let me check with the boss. I don’t think he’d be upset. He just moved back so hopefully no more random trips across the country. Though, with more consistent flying, he might need me around a little more often than in the past.”

“How much will you charge to instruct?” Mr. Weston laughed, a jolly sort of chuckle that Elizabeth found appealing, contrasting his initial porcupine-like personality. He seemed a teddy bear sort of person, one who was initially gruff, but quite warm once he welcomed you to his circle of trust.

“You live near here?”

A smile crossed her face, and she said, “Pretty close.”

“How about you come clean and sweep the hangar, help me with the aircraft, and bring me donuts once a week?”

As she reached out her hand to make the deal, an artic blast came whooshing through the door. Both of them yelled, “Come in or go out, but shut the door!” Shaking hands, they grinned at each other.

About Came a Flight Gently

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together. An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

About the Authors

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.  

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

Connect with Leigh Dreyer: Email: leighdreyerauthor@gmail.com | Facebook | Goodreads | Website


Leigh and Paul are generously offering an ebook of Came a Flight Gently to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 28, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Leigh and Paul, for being my guests today, and congratulations on your new book!

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