So I’m still flying high (no pun intended) two days after my orientation flight as a student pilot. I have already scheduled my next lesson and I am really looking forward to that (I’m counting the days). I started the self-paced ground school instruction yesterday. It’s amazing what one can do with today’s technology. Imagine where we’ll be in a decade.
For the past couple of nights I’ve woken up in the middle of the night simply from being energized with the idea of becoming a pilot again. This gave me an opportunity to think a little bit while I was trying to get back to sleep.
Out of all the folks that shared the excitement about me pursuing pilot lessons, only one person asked me why I was pursuing this now, at this point in my life. After all, learning to fly in Central New York during the winter months is a challenge all of its own, but there’s never really a wrong time to learn to fly, I guess you just know when it’s time. And for me, it’s definitely time. There are a few things that have inspired me recently.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that during a Delta flight home from Minneapolis we had to do a couple of go-arounds to land due to the windy conditions at the airport. While I had a few moments of nervousness (looking back, I think that was because I didn’t know firsthand what was going on), for the most part I was really intrigued as to how the pilots were handling the plane. While others were nervous, I was more excited because while I didn’t want to be landing that plane in those conditions at that time, I really wanted to be in control of the plane and handling the challenges associated with being pilot. I have no dreams of flying an airliner, but I certainly want to fly for fun and bring friends and family along with me.
When Earl and I went to Oshkosh, Wisconsin earlier this year for their annual EAA AirVenture, I was thrilled beyond belief. On the night of our arrival, when I saw the small planes flying in and out of the airfield, making it obvious that the pilots were having a grand ol’ time, I realized that I really missed that sort of experience. I had only flown once in a small plane since I had flown with my Dad and I missed it very, very much. It’s something that I love to do and I can’t describe the giddiness I feel when I’m in a small plane. I really feel like I’m in a different world and it’s a really good feeling, even behind the controls of the plane on Saturday. It’s a freakin’ amazing feeling. Oshkosh is definitely on the bucket list.
Recently I saw a video of Jeb Corliss, a BASE jumper and wingsuit pilot, who hit some rocks during one of his amazing wingsuit flights. He nearly died. Jeb talked about his accident and the subsequent recovery, and if that guy can fly a wingsuit, crash, recover and get back into the wingsuit, I can certainly learn how to fly a Piper Cherokee. Life is about choices and my choice is to learn to do what I already know I love to do. There’s no reason to wait, there’s no excuse. Honestly, a long time ago I thought that a gay boy could never be man enough to fly. I have since learned that long ago I was a foolish lad.
But I think what really prompted me to contact the flying club and get started on my pilot lessons was coming across this photo:
That’s me, the short one in the front of the group of guys, with the striped shirt. We are all standing in front of a Cessna 150 that had been used to teach all but one of the older gentlemen to fly that day (the one in the yellow shirt is the Flight Instructor). The thing about that photo is that while I didn’t have a lesson that day (nowhere near old enough), I had sat behind the controls of the 150 and I had my hands on the stick for take-off, landing and during flight. While my feet weren’t on the rudder pedals, the instructor handled that, I had the illusion of flying the plane. I remember pulling too hard on the stick and the stall warning alarm sounding in the cockpit. It scared me but the Flight Instructor calmly said, “you might want to ease up on that a bit”. He was in control the whole time, but why would a 12 year old be “flying” a plane? Simple. We wanted to go for a ride and the flight instructor was more comfortable in the co-pilots’ seat. Despite the stall warning, I remember being so excited about my chance to really be the pilot of plane someday and I knew it was something that I wanted to do. Actually, it was something that I had to do.
I gazed at the photo for a long time and wondered: 33 years later, what am I waiting for? I couldn’t come up with an answer. While Earl won’t let me ride a motorcycle, he is fully supportive of me flying a plane.
I have spent many nights “relaxing” in front of a computer screen doing a modified version of what I do during the day for a career. I love what I do at work, but for the betterment of everyone involved, I need to disengage from work-like activities in the interest of recreation and relaxation. This, coupled with my love and need to fly, makes my pilot lessons a no-brainer.
I just can’t wait any longer. This lad needs to fly.