I've read words written by those who try to describe and explain the feelings of flight, how experiencing flight gives them great happiness and exhilaration, and I can't say that any hit the mark, at least not for me...I just wanted to stay airborne and not return to earth where the drudgeries of daily life have to be dealt with. Where the greatest form of therapy takes place. Like Peter Pan, I didn't want to land...or grown any older. I was having too much fun finding out who I was and being one with the lovely airplane I was flying.
By: Marc R. Nathanson, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (ret)
It Can't Be Put in Words:
Peter Pan was a mythical boy who never wanted to grow up. He lived a wonderful and exciting life full of adventure and new experiences-and he could fly!
I have often heard students, friends and others who fly admit that they wish they never had to come down from a flight. That they so enjoy the experience and challenge that returning to the ground would end their joy of being one with their craft. Just like Peter Pan, they don't want to grow up.
I've read words written by those who try to describe and explain the feelings of flight, how experiencing flight gives them great happiness and exhilaration, and I can't say that any hit the mark, at least not for me. Some words like those found in the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull written by Richard Bach, mean more than most, but none could describe what I could never put in words-I just wanted to stay airborne and not return to earth where the drudgeries of daily life have to be dealt with. Where the greatest form of therapy takes place. Like Peter Pan, I didn't want to land... or grown any older. I was having too much fun finding out who I was and being one with the lovely airplane I was flying.
Saying Goodbye or Just Tired:
Every month I read Trade-A-Plane looking for things I can use in my airplane and to see what is for sale. I feel badly for those who advertise their airplanes for sale because of "lost medical". I think that there is a way they could still fly and stay young, by relinquishing the responsibilities of Pilot in Command to someone else. But they don't. They sell the airplane that gave them so much pleasure over the years. Of course, I don't know if a lost medical is the only reason why they sell. I can only guess. Maybe they have difficulty getting into the cockpit, or they can't see as well as they should and don't want to miss the wonders they witnessed when they could fly alone. It could be that their greatest pleasure is flying alone or taking up those who are not yet rated, like a youngster in the Young Eagles. Maybe they are just tired.
Take a Breath:
As I grow older, I find that things have changed. Maybe it is because through the experiences I have had I am more conservative. Although I can get through a checklist, start, taxi, perform the Before Takeoff Checks and get airborne faster than when I first learned to fly, I find that I need to remind myself to take a breath, look around (to clear the airspace, of course) and enjoy what I see outside and to feel the airplane and all her nuances and to just enjoy how things feel and sound and smell and look. At times I need to remind myself to just get lost in the moment.
I have met airline pilots who treat flying as a job. Who don't want anything to do with airplanes or aviation when they leave the cockpit at the completion of a trip. I wonder what their motivation was when they first learned to fly. Were they the sort who saw the glamour and became soured by the amount of work that goes into a flight or did they just want a job rather than an experience? I feel bad for them because they allowed themselves to grow up.
Are You Peter?
Are you Peter Pan? Do you want to stay airborne longer (and never grow up)? Do you like to sit in the cockpit warmed by the sun and take a nap (on the ground) or read the operating manuals as you look at the controls, dials and settings and practice with the nav gear? Maybe you like to "chair fly" in the airplane or take a photo of the panel so you can study it later. Do you take notes that make more sense when written in the cockpit where you can move the switches and watch the controls move? If you don't, maybe you should take advantage of time alone with your airplane to practice. Could you pass a blind- fold cockpit check where you close your eyes and identify controls and switches by touch or do you need to work on this? Do this and you may realize that this is pretty neat. You may not want to leave this comfortable sanctum. That you like this moment and don't want it to end... and never grow up.
No matter what you do with your airplane, it is your experience and you may find that it is hard to explain to the uninitiated who's eyes glaze over as you attempt to describe the wonders you have seen. They don't get it because they have not experienced it-have pity on them for they do not know the wonders of flight. You are the lucky one. I have a plaque with a poem on it that sits in my office which ends with "Because I fly I envy no man on earth"
Never grow up!