I get a lot of...
- Why did you start flying?
- What made you want to become a pilot?
- Isn't flying [ expensive | dangerous | frightening | etc. ]?
...and I've answered them so many times and in so many different ways with colleagues, friends, and family I wanted to take a moment and really dive into the 'why' of flying and being a pilot. Before I dive in I'll preface that this post will go far beyond just being a pilot and into the thoughts / feelings I have about aviation with some thought to how those values play into so many other facets of life.
Lets answer the questions...
Why did I start flying?
I decided to start my plummet into aviation after watching a GoPro video...
Now, if you just watched that you'll realize there isn't much flight in that video, but it wasn't necessarily about that for me.
Intrinsically that video inspired something in me, what I assume all those people felt in those scenes... That sense of accomplishment, astonishment, and extreme drive to conquer some unique task that shapes your life, molds you into something else, and having finally reached the peak, becomes a part of you. I've pleasantly coined these events in life as "GoPro Moments" (don't worry someone already thought of this too). As an aside I think everyone should have a GoPro Moment, something they can remenisce on and feel overwhelming elation at what they had done. Needless to say after watching that video I knew my GoPro Moment was going to be flight.
Isn't flying [ expensive | dangerous | frightening | etc. ]?
Let me break each of these down...
- Expensive? Yes, it certainly is. At roughly 100 to 150 per rental hour (for a trainer plane) it certainly can look like too much, but if you catch 'the bug' of flight you'll find a way to make it work out.
- Dangerous? Possibly. Are there bad drivers? Not that they're similar, but bad drivers typically are that way because they lack the focus necessary to accept data from all of their sensory inputs (sight, sound, touch, etc.). These are expounded once you're in the air and exacerbated as you begin training. This is not all bad though and, in reality like driving, your brain learns to handle everything to become second nature. I've noticed the best pilots are the ones that never become complacent, but rather continue to become more aware and in tune with their respective plane.
- Frightening? Completely opinionated. Obviously some people are afraid to fly even in corporate airlines so this is a gray area depending on how squeamish the person is.
The solo, the one definite moment where the student finally takes the plane in their own hands and begins, what I would call, their first true adventure into flight.
I don't think I've ever heard the solo experience described any better than from the movie One Six Right.
What I find the most interesting about that clip is that if you were to take away the direct discussion of an aviation solo, it becomes an analogue to the way most people live their lives.
We all begin as students, learning lesson upon lesson under the guise that there will always be a guardian to watch over us and keep us safe, but we all know this isn't true. The day comes when that guardian looks at you and says "its time," and you know then and there you're going to have to move forward without him or her. This could be a mentor in a career, a parent seeing their child off to college, or any other moment in life when you realized you had to go alone, and conquer whatever challenge came henceforth.
When I started my life of general aviation (GA) I never fully understood how connected I would become with so many facets of history. I won't drone on about the Wright Brothers or Leonardo Da Vinci, but about the people and places in aviation today. I had never been to a GA airport before and I had no idea the amount of local history and culture each area housed. The people, the food, the aircraft, all set in different points on a timeline, each telling their own story.
When I would land at a local airport I felt like I was entering a window in time, through which localized history came to life. I never would have imagined the people and places I found, things that would have passed my life by in the ignorance that was mundane life. Now, looking back, I'm ecstatic at the thought that I am part of this history and that I have the opportunity to grow the community and shape the interest I've grown to love.
Last, but certainly not least, the people within aviation are some of the nicest and most entertaining people I've ever met. From flight instructors to air traffic controllers I haven't run into someone I couldn't easily get along with.
As with any niche group the enthusiasm for a common interest generally garners well-to-do results. It seems with aviation though that people either love it or hate it. The 'in-the-middle' crowd doesn't seem to exist which is why, I would assume, the ones that are left are there purely for their own enjoyment and nothing else. Given that, I would say nothing brings people together quicker than a truly genuine love for their craft, something I can personally attest is not nearly as potent within other fields (did anyone say software engineering?). I've never met another pilot who didn't want to spend the entire time discussing the finer points of their previous great adventures. I myself will readily admit I'll discuss flying with anyone who will hear me and typically bring flight into conversation without even realizing it.
So where am I now?
Well even though I have my Private Pilot License I still don't feel I've reached my true GoPro Moment. I'm currently working with Bill Finagin (an ace of an aerobatics instructor) so that I can move from regular straight-and-level flight into aerobatic competitions. My ultimate goal is to either make it onto the US Aerobatic team and compete in the World Aerobatic Championships or to compete in the Red Bull Air Race; either of which would be a dream come true, but at this rate I'm going to focus on the task at hand and see where the skies take me.
In the end, I love to fly (who knew). The freedom, the joy, the majesty of it all; it still makes me smile from ear to ear just thinking about it. I'm still a young pilot and have many happy years of adventure and exploration ahead of me, to which I'm extremely glad for.
I guess my root takeaway from this is, for anyone who has made it this far in the blog post, to challenge yourself and find your unique GoPro Moment! Go out there, find your moment, carpe diem, hashtag it at #GoProMoment, do whatever you need to do, just don't give up and keep fighting for that defining piece of yourself!