About a month ago Plainview pilot Ronnie Robbins read the story about a 7-year-old boy who dreams of flying and one day becoming a U.S. Navy aviator.
It reminded him of his own childhood passion for flying, when in about 1958 his dad paid the standard penny-a-pound for him and his brother to take their first airplane ride.
So he clipped the Herald story from the newspaper he read at a sandwich shop, deciding he’d get in touch with Albert Samarripa’s family and take the boy who’d never been aboard an airplane flying. But he misplaced the clipping, and days passed.
Albert’s grandmother, Olga Samarripa, had been taking him on trips to the Plainview-Hale County Airport over the summer, where the boy liked looking at airplanes and the U.S. Navy Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon, which spend July there undergoing repairs. Since Olga grew up in a long-since demolished house on the airport grounds, those outings were sentimental for her.
Then on Friday afternoon, grandmother and grandson drove out to the airport and happened to meet Robbins, who remembered reading the story. He wanted to take Albert up for a ride. “When?” Olga Samarripa asked. “He said today’s the day.”
It had to be today, Robbins would later say that Friday evening. “It was destiny.”
Then just after 7 p.m. Albert buckled up in the backseat of his grandfather’s pickup, drawing pictures of airplanes on the way to the airport. The next time he would buckle up would be for take-off.
As friends and family — including Albert’s parents, Robbie and Joe Sammaripa Ramos — gathered around, Albert’s face lit up as he got near the Piper PA-12 Supercruiser, a 1946 model kept in the best of shape by Robbins, maintenance director for Rocket Aviation.
No one had to ask Albert to smile for the camera, and the grin wouldn’t leave as he buckled up in the small aircraft. Then the propellers started, and his adventure began.
“This is the best day of my life!” Albert said for the first of many times.
“Every day is the best day of my life when I get to go flying,” Robbins replied.
The pair flew over downtown Plainview, Albert pointed on the ground to where his mom works, they looked for his house and school, viewed Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium from the air, and descended for a low-altitude look at a corn crop. Then there were a couple of fly-bys at the airport, where Albert would wave to his cheering family.
Once the airplane landed, Albert explained he was more convinced than ever he wants to join the armed forces as a pilot one day.
“If he is focused on that goal, then he will make it,” Robbins later said.
So while Albert’s dream of riding on an airplane has been realized thanks to Robbins, becoming a pilot is a number of years on the horizon.
“When you become a pilot you can take us for a ride,” someone in the crowd of family and friends shouted.
Albert shook his head, indicating he would.
Before leaving, Albert hugged Robbins and thanked him for the ride. Everyone agreed Albert would remember that day forever.
“His dream came true, he got a ride,” Albert’s grandfather Pete Samarripa said, and everyone went to celebrate at the Dairy Queen.