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Sharing the cockpit

Love takes flight at 8,000 feet

Created date

February 20th, 2017
Highland Springs residents Sam and Sally Davidson have been married for 33 years. The couple met in the early 1980s when she was his flight instructor.

Highland Springs residents Sam and Sally Davidson have been married for 33 years. The couple met in the early 1980s when she was his flight instructor.

Sam Davidson is a man of many interests.

He holds degrees in physics and law from Washington and Lee University. He worked for a patent law firm before founding his own law firm. And he was the president of a boat company in Monroe, La., before founding his own company manufacturing Cajun bass boats.

“I guess you could say I have a short attention span,” says Sam with a laugh.

In 1980, with his boat company, Mastercrafters Corporation, up and running, Sam decided he was ready for a new challenge. He wanted to learn to fly.

“I told two friends who were pilots,” says Sam. “They hauled me off to Monroe Regional Airport and arranged a flying lesson with a woman I’d never met before. I was concerned, to say the least.”

Sam’s flight instructor Sally was amused at her reluctant student. She agreed to give him a complimentary first lesson.

“His friends dragged him out there, so I gave him a free lesson,” says Sally.

Building her business

Sally’s own aviation history had an inauspicious beginning.

“My first husband was a doctor whose hobby was flying,” says Sally. “He wanted me to learn to fly so I could land the plane if we were ever in an emergency situation.”

It didn’t take long for Sally to realize she loved to fly. The marriage, however, wasn’t soaring. When it ended, Sally launched her own business as a pilot and flight instructor.

“I rented a little hangar at the south end of the airport,” says Sally. “I had three planes—two Piper Cherokee 140s for teaching flying lessons and a Piper Cherokee Six for charters and hauling freight.”

After Sam’s first lesson with Sally, he realized she was “a very good teacher,” but his work schedule prevented him from taking regular lessons.

“Spring in the boat business is very busy,” says Sam. “My time was not my own, so I was a sporadic flight student for two years.”

Last-minute trip

Not until a series of events were set in motion by a pressing need did Sam and Sally began to know each other on a personal level.

“Every year in the boat business you launch new models, much like in the car industry,” says Sam. “One year, we were introducing touch switches. Switches had been a big problem in the boat business because they got wet and didn’t work. Touch switches solved the problem, and I took a bunch of orders for boats with touch switches on them.”

Sam’s touch switch distributor, however, couldn’t deliver.

“I needed to travel to several little companies across the country to get this thing off the ground,” says Sam. “I’d hired a pilot who worked with Sally to take me, but he backed out at the last minute. I begged her to fly me instead.”

Sally agreed, and the pair set off for a four-day flight across the U.S.

“That trip was the first time we’d really spent any amount of time talking, and we realized we had a lot in common,” says Sam. “We’d both been in marriages that didn’t work, and we both valued time with our children. By the end of that trip, I was hooked.”

“Over a period of time, our relationship just worked itself out,” says Sally.

The couple married on May 28, 1983, at the Monmouth Historic Inn in Natchez, Miss.

Marriage of family and business

Sam and Sally proved to be a good fit in marriage and business. Her planes were beneficial to his boat business for two reasons. 

“We used the planes to pick up potential customers and bring them to the boat factory, usually resulting in a sale,” says Sam. “I also used the planes to fix warranty issues in the field. It helped with our customer service.”

Sam continued to hone his flying skills and earned his instrument rating, which allowed him to fly in limited visibility conditions. With more than 2,000 hours logged in the cockpit, Sam jokes that 1,800 of those hours were instruction, since Sally was sitting next to him. 

“They were the most expensive flying lessons ever,” he grins.

On the home front, Sally’s four children and Sam’s three fused into one large family tree.

“Our families were a priority,” says Sam. “Sally and I lived on a bayou in Monroe, and we wanted to make it a place where our kids and grandkids liked to come. We had boats, jet skis, a water trampoline. Everyone came over on Sundays, and it was a great family time.”

Eventually, though, the grandchildren grew up, and other interests took them away on Sunday afternoons.

“We’d been so busy with family and work that we didn’t have many hobbies,” says Sally. “We began to think about what our next step would be.”

Next chapter 

The couple’s friends, Bill and Marilyn Hinds, had moved to an Erickson Living community, Eagle’s Trace, in Houston, Tex.

“We liked the layout of their apartment and started to consider a move to the Erickson community in Dallas, Highland Springs, because of its central location to our children,” says Sally.

In 2008, Sam and Sally moved into a two-bedroom Lancaster-style apartment with a sunroom at Highland Springs.

“We attended every activity we could when we first moved,” says Sally. 

Eventually, Sam and Sally each found their niche. Sam spends a good part of each week in Highland Springs’ well-appointed woodshop. He’s also served two terms as Resident Advisory Council president.

Sally is the driving force behind Highland Springs residents’ regular outings to the Lyric Stage in Irving.

“We started out with 10 or 12 of us who went to a showing of South Pacific shortly after Sam and I moved to Highland Springs,” says Sally. “Now there are 81 Lyric Stage season ticket holders who live here. We take one motor coach and the Highland Springs bus to every performance.”

Asked to reflect on their 33 years of marriage, Sam glances at Sally. 

“Every once in a while, you make a really great decision,” he says. “Sally was one of my great decisions.”