The Gift of Flight.
To me this is extraordinary to say but I flew today. For some this might not mean anything. To others it might
seem like a distant fantasy never to be reached, and for others still, it’s a simply a matter of ‘another’ thing in life. But for me, it’s part of destiny. I could pontificate for hours about it, but then it becomes self serving and cheapened in some ways, because it isn’t just an experience, it’s more. Yes, a good portion of us have flow commercial and have seen the world from 30,000 feet. But the percentage of actual general aviation pilots continues a slow downward spiral and you begin to understand how ‘rare’ of a bird (no pun intended) pilots are and how rare of a gift is it to fly.
So often our lives are spent ‘under’ everything but flying isn’t just the idea of being on top. It is the idea of actually being part of something so much bigger. Life takes on a totally different perspective when looking at it from 4000 feet. Instead of the traffic around you on the highway, you ‘see’ the highway lead off into the distance. On a clear day, you see the land disappear, not because of obstacles, but because of distance. (Limits of eyes and curve of the earth).
It just isn’t the perspective one’s gets from 4000 feet, it’s the truly taking the desire of flight, and putting it into a machines that can follow the will of your spirit as your soar into the vast expanse between earth and eternity.
Though it is true for every machine we operate – car, motorcycle, boat; in a airplane, there is a bond between the pilot and the plane that isn’t easy to break away from. Whether it’s a battered old Piper Cherokee, a new Cessna 172, and from steam round gauges to smart cockpit displays, that machine and you become one is a way that no other machine can create. Pulling back on the yoke points you to the heavens and truth be told, you better be one with that machine!
Flying isn’t just a science, it’s an art. I have a few ATP (Airline Transport Pilots) pilot friends and it’s clear they love their jobs, but flying for an airline isn’t like flying General Aviation. When I flew today, my cruise altitude was 5500 feet. Winds weren’t my friend today so I requested 9500 feet in the old Cherokee I rent. The expanse of land and sky, at my fingertips isn’t something words can easily describe. The 1000’s of lives living just ‘right there’…within less than 2 miles, give you such a broader perspective of life, love, sorrows, successes and challenges. It gives you a glimmer of the ‘bigger’ we all are a part of.
Like a lot of good things in life, flying isn’t for everyone and flying isn’t cheap. Yes, there are ways to cut the budget and do things in a more ‘efficient way’ but flying is also about relationship and commitment. I work a full time plus job like most folks, and it isn’t in aviation. I have commitments within and out of work that I love, but keep me busy. Small General Aviation Airports are around but time and distance are always a factor when flying. For me, I drive about an hour or so to just get to my home based airport. Put this in perspective… I spend two hours on the road, for an hour of flight time. Plus when you consider preflight checks, weather, flight planning etc. the actual time in air is small compared to the time to just fly. In my situation, the instructor isn’t a kid building time for the airlines but someone who loves aviation and tries to give it back in a way that is easily digestible financially and intellectually. However easy someone tries to make it, aviation is a love affair, and like any other relationship it takes time and commitment. And, just like the time and commitment one puts into a relationship, it pays rich rewards that give something back that is only for you.
When I say “I flew today”, it means more than I was in the air. It means I continued with a great love affair that all of man and woman kind can be a part of, that has driven our dreams, hopes and desires since we were children. Today, flying is used in so many ways to make the world a better place. I have often said to Elizabeth, if money were no limitation, I would purchase a single engine turbine like the Piper M600 or a TBM 900, and spend my days flying sick kids to hospitals, offering flight to missionaries and ministers and try to give back from the skills I have been given for the betterment of mankind.
What does the future hold? I really can’t say other than I flew today.
Peace on your journey this week.