There are roughly 600,000 pilots in the United States. And we are now estimated to be at about 330,000,000 people populating our nation. One can quickly glean from those numbers we aviators are a microcosm of the whole. These numbers transfer from community to community, and Hibbing is no different. Flyers are a cohesive group which share a passion for the sky, and that is why it cuts deeply when we lose one of our own. We lost a good one this week, and the breach we are observing will take some time to heal.
Don Penn was a “teachers/teacher.” I can quickly recall a plethora of narratives to illustrate this point, however this venue is limited. One that comes to mind and drives this salient point home lacking any ambiguity happened several years ago. Don was on balance tremendously engaging and gregarious. However, this time his demeanor was atypical. We were enjoying a Chili Fly-In at the Hibbing Airport networking with like-minded pilots. Normally Don would have been immersed in the midst of the group sharing information. I could not help but notice he was heads down at an end table with a young girl and had a napkin and pen in his hand. I found out later, she expressed an interest in learning to fly, and Don was doing what he did best: teaching!
Don knew his time on this rock was limited, and as he grew closer to meeting his creator, he did so in an altruistic manner. For a select group, he shared several tools of the trade we as flight instructors utilize. I now have an eclectic compendium of items in my possession that will always remind me of Don, and when they do, instantaneously engender a smile.
Each time I reached out to Don for advice and mentoring, he would first greet me with a warm and sincere “Hello, my friend.” After that, the discourse flowed. Following his lead, it is only fitting to close with, “Farewell, my friend.” I am going to miss talking to you!