Rarely Asked Questions: Is flying still a big part of your life?

It sure is!

I’ve been flying airplanes for over a hundred years, now.  Orville Wright yelled at me, “Kid, you’ll never be a pilot if you keep standing on the launch-track when we’re taking off!”  He was right.  I stood aside, didn’t get killed, and sure enough I’ve been flying ever since.

Most pilots agree that their calling is s powerful clarifier of mind.  The vexing details of life in a complicated society fall away at takeoff, and one concentrates on the challenges and delights of becoming a creature who has existed only for the fast fraction of an instant in geological time: a human being who can fly.

In the cockpit, an airplane pilot’s struck at once, and struck hard, by her or his freedoms and limits.  Sure enough, there’s the full-circle rainbow flickering around one’s shadow on a thundercloud, but be so brazen as to fly into that cloud and she’ll turn you every way but Monday.

All of us deal with life and death every day, on the highway.  Stray across that double line and we’re goners.  Yet we’re so used to knowing that, and respecting it, that we can skate inches from the line still concerned about our mortgage payment, preoccupied with our children’s problems in school.

Flying, at least for me, has a certain listen-up quality: “If you prefer to remain alive, Richard, it might be well for you avoid the rotor-winds on the lee side of yon mountain,” and,  “Oh, how embarrassing! if you forget to lower your wheels before landing, this time.”

The return for listening up is not only the vaporizing of large chunks of time and space through direct no-speed-limit no-stop-sign travel, it’s the sheer beauty of floating airborne above the planet.

One comes to relish those meals of hazard and heaven, and the clean delight of both never grows old.  The taste is ever delicious.  Flying’s a big part of any pilot’s life.

Mine, too.



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