Thursday, March 21, 2013

I love to fly but...

I love to fly. I've always loved flying, ever since I was a kid. And I still do. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm always going to love it and continue to love it till the day I die. Taking up flying lessons a few years ago has only strengthened this feeling and added to the desire to get up in the clouds. Yep, for sure, this ain't going away.

But, I have a problem. It's something I never thought would be a problem and it's got to the stage now where it's starting to bug me and affects my behavior. I've started getting disillusioned with my own ability to answer a question clearly and concisely and am now resorting to just smiling and giving three or four word answers. I think I'm starting to look a little bit...out there!

What's my problem? Well, in a nutshell, I can't for the life of me tell people why I love to fly. I know what you're thinking; "Is that all?!" But for somebody like me, who has had aviation in my blood for over 30 years and for the first time in my life getting to DO the flying, this has become a big problem for me. On a regular basis, friends and family ask me how my flying training is going. In most cases they are genuinely interested and being very polite in asking, but I find this is where my problems begin. I used to try and go into some detail as to what I was doing in my lessons to give them some idea of what was involved.

Lets take learning to take off for example; the conversation might go something like this:
"So you accelerate down the runway, adding some right rudder to keep the plane in the middle and then when you reach a certain speed, you pull back slightly and all of a sudden you're up."

"Wow, that sounds great. What's it like when you take off?"

"Well, its' second you're trundling along the ground and then....well, then you're up in the air...climbing away in the...air..."

Oh words, why do you fail me thus?! Why is it so hard to describe that sublime feeling of when you leave the constraints of the earth and start to float up on a cushion of air, at the same time experiencing true three dimensional freedom and movement? That feeling of your first bank onto the crosswind leg when you're leaning into the turn and the whole horizon shifts in angles you never see on the ground, and never will. How do you describe that "Oh my goodness" feeling when you start learning to land and the ground seems to rush up towards you, flying past your peripheral vision as you try and lower the plane onto the ground without bending something?

Any pilots out there reading this probably understand what I mean, but why is it so hard to describe to somebody who has never done it?

I have come to this conclusion on the matter : that the experience of flying is much more that the sum of it's parts. It is much more that just learning a new skill, expanding your knowledge, gaining muscle memory, seeing the ground from the air etc. It is much more.

I guess I might equate it to trying to describe the Grand Canyon to somebody who has never been there. It sounds impressive enough, but doesn't stir the imagination. The only way the Grand Canyon can move your soul is to experience it. You look up at the Canyon walls and all of a sudden you start to consider how small you are but yet how wonderful this world is. It does something to you.

This happens to me when I'm flying; it stirs me within in such a manner that I can't explain it.

I came across a CS Lewis quote recently which tends to sum it up for me in a few words:
"I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now."

So, from now on, I'm not going to get frustrated with not being able to describe flying to others. I will just smile politely, be as passionate as I can about the subject...and then twist their arms until they agree to take a trial flight! That'll sort them out!


  1. Mark, I had the same issue. I couldn't describe why I loved aviation so much. Took me a while to figure out that my true passion in aviation is Air Traffic Control. Flying allows me to get as close to being a Controller as I will ever get. Now if you ask the question "why do you love ATC?" I can't express in words why I answer that. It's just the way I was made.

  2. Great message!! I want to go up with u in ur aeroplane now reading that!!!