By Liana Jacob
MEET THE hot fourth generation pilot who fell in love on a plane, was proposed to on a plane and got married on a landing strip.
In October 2012, pilots, Allison Leeward (27) and Michael Marco (29) from Atlantic Beach, Florida, USA, met for the first time at a fly-in event where they met each other’s parents who told them their families had been friends for a long time. A year later in 2013, they started dating at university after spending time at a big air show called Sun N Fun.
Their mutual love of all things aviation came from family ties, as Allison’s great-grandfather, Al Leeward and his brother, Ray, were pilots during the Second World War, whilst Michael’s grandfather, Seymour Marco, was a B-24 pilot in WW2. It turned out Allison’s grandfather and Michael’s father honoured their own fathers by owning and flying WW2 P51s and frequently flew together when Michael and Allison were young children.
Their aviation interest strengthened their relationship over the years and in on May 4, 2019, the couple decided to go on a seaplane flying lesson on a beautiful blue-sky day. After flying for a while and Allison’s successful landings on water, they floated in the river to talk and Michael pulled out a little velvet box and asked her to marry him.
They had both hoped to have an aviation-themed wedding, so following 10 months of careful planning, they got married on February 24, 2020, at Leeward Air Ranch which is a fly-in community that was built by Allison’s father and grandfather in 1980.
Allison flew in on a DHC-2 De Havilland Beaver amphibious seaplane, which was piloted by Michael’s father, David, and her own father, Dirk. The entire venue was next to an aeroplane runway and was attended by 100 guests.
The wedding was a hit with her guests who thought it was a unique and special day.
“Both Michael and I grew up surrounded by aviation; our parents and many family members were pilots and inspired us to continue that passion for flying,” Allison said.
“Michael and I love so many types of aviation but are particularly drawn to ‘short take-off and landing (STOL)’ type of flying in remote areas and aerobatics.
“When we were both in college, I met Michael in 2012 at a little grassroots fly-in. We started dating in 2013 after spending more time together at a big air show called Sun N Fun.
“Our families had known each other since before we were born (we even have some childhood photos together) but we hadn’t really known each other for years until we reconnected when we were in college.
“I never would have met Michael if we both hadn’t been interested in aviation and gone to the same small fly-ins.
“My great-grandfather, Al Leeward and his brother Ray Leeward, ferried various aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean to France, including the B-17, B-24 and A-20.
“Michael’s grandfather, Seymour Marco, was a B-24 pilot in WW2 who primarily spent his time in Florida instructing new pilots on how to fly the B-24.
“May 4, 2019, was a weekend that was promising great weather and Michael was so sneaky and sweet about trying to do whatever I wanted.
“We decided on a seaplane flying lesson before meeting our friends on the boat to hang out on the disappearing islands. I never saw it coming.
“But looking back, when he was the one who suggested I use my Go Pros to film and record audio (which I normally love doing and he usually dislikes), I should have had a hint, but instead I was blissfully oblivious.
“After flying around and two good landings on the water in the seaplane, Michael, the diligent instructor, asked me what I could have done to improve my landing.
“We were just floating there on the water as he said, ‘okay, I’ll stop bugging you with questions. I just have one more’ and as I looked over at him, he pulled out a little velvet box and asked me to marry him.
“That’s about all I remember – I’m not even sure if I said yes. I do remember saying that I wouldn’t be able to fly home (too many happy tears).
“It was such a special moment because Michael had spent a lot of time secretly redesigning a custom ring for me that used to be an heirloom marquis diamond from my late grandmother.”
The smitten couple decided to continue the theme of aviation for their wedding, with many aeroplanes around them whilst exchanging their vows on a runway.
“A wedding with aviation at the heart of it was an easy choice for both of us, pilots. We decided to get married at Leeward Air Ranch, a fly-in community ‘Ranch’ that my father and grandfather had built in 1980,” Allison said.
“My parents have a house and a small ‘farm’ there, and the large grass runway for airplanes to land on is right in their back garden.
“We were engaged for about ten months before our wedding so I had thought a lot about the big picture and special details I wanted for the wedding, but I didn’t choose the date and start booking vendors until about six months out.
“Luckily, I have wonderfully creative and helpful parents, aunts and friends who helped bring this spectacular and unique wedding to life.
“Everyone helped with a lot of DIY projects including putting all of my bridal flowers and arrangements together the day before.
“On February 24, 2020, Michael and I exchanged vows in front of our parents, family, close friends and lots of airplanes.
“The ceremony was held right next to the runway, and I was flown into the ceremony in the DHC-2 Seaplane Beaver by my father-in-law and father.
“We taxied right up to the pastor and bridal party, and my father walked me down the aisle. After a beautiful ceremony, Michael dipped me down for a kiss as two warbirds flew overhead with smoke to celebrate their union.
“Cocktails and dinner were served at the hangar surrounded by planes. Everyone ate, drank and danced through the night.
“We had so many guests tell us about how unique and special the day was, and how much it reflected the things we loved.”