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Copyright © 2001-2018 by Russ Meyer
- It's beautiful. There are so many things that are beautiful about
flying. For me, it's hard to capture in words the things I've seen.
Flying through canyons in the air between towering cumulus clouds.
Seeing rainbows and discovering they appear circular from up high.
Flying through Eastern Washington at 200 feet for hours over endless rolling
fields of golden wheat. The beauty of the clouds and the rain when
you're up with them; in their element, on their terms. The silence of a
long forgotten airstrip, a hundred miles from anywhere. Flying amongst
the snow capped peaks of the Rockies in mid-summer. You don't just see this
with your eyes, you feel it in you gut.
- It's technical. You don't really need to know much just to fly an
airplane, but if you really want to understand it well, there are about a
zillion things to learn and master. You can learn how to read weather
reports, interpret the meaning of various clouds, the importance of dew point,
the impact of air temperature on aircraft performance, how the
engine works, how the instruments work, how the airplane flies
and is controlled, how to operate radios, how to navigate from one point to
another, how to manage your fuel, how to work the complex airspace
system, etc. So much to learn and
master; an endless little puzzle.
- It requires skill. There are things in flying that cannot be really
mastered by reading a book or otherwise intellectualizing them. For
example, to make a good landing (on purpose) takes a kind of intuitive sense
about what the machine is doing and how it is responding to you. The machine almost seems alive sometimes;
at least it does to me. More like riding a
horse than an assemblage of bolts and sheet metal.
- Exploration. My weekend "exploration radius" is hugely increased.
I live in the Dallas area. If I want to fly out to Albuquerque, Corpus
Christi, or New Orleans over the weekend and have time to look around...no
problem. That would be difficult to do with a car; and arranging airline tickets
is a hassle, especially on a whim.
- Adventure. After a week of slogging through the office routine, I
can take a Saturday afternoon and go flying around the state. When I get
back, I feel like I've done something, and I've usually experienced something
really cool along the way. On almost every flight, something happens to make it memorable. An
endless kaleidoscope of experience.
- It provides perspective. I frequently fly over my house. It
looks like a tiny box from up high. It's hard to
believe that my whole world...my family, my problems, and my aspirations are contained within the confines of that little box. Looking over the sprawling suburbs of Dallas I see
thousands of little boxes, just like my own, and in each one of them are
people with problems and aspirations just like me. I realize the pettiness
of the things I've chosen to occupy
my time with. How utterly narrow my view of life is. How uptight I
am about a hundred little things that don't add up to nothin' in the long run.
It's a sobering feeling, and helps me imagine what my problems look
like from God's perspective. I am continually humbled by how much time
and energy I waste fretting over stuff that's about as useful as dirt. I
return from the flight a changed man...for a while.
- Pilot subculture. There is a fraternity of little
airplane pilots. In this subculture, there is an unspoken
loyalty to all other little airplane pilots. We take care of each other,
and it doesn't matter whether you know the other guy or not, or even what
country he comes from. There's a shared experience and ineffable
attraction to the sky that unites us on some really basic level. You
just look the other guy in the eye, and there's that knowing twinkle that only
pilots share. You'll do anything
you can to help a fellow pilot, especially one in need. It's really
- Elegant machines. Airplanes are the most elegant machines ever
constructed by man. They are fabulous; the way they fly, the way they
respond to your commands, each one has a personality you should learn and respect.
They're sleek, powerful, demanding, and even arcane at times. They fly
just like a bird and are the closest thing to a real organic creature man has ever created.
- Closer to God. As far back as I can remember, I've always been
fascinated by the sky. The clouds, rain, and stars have been endless
sources of wonder for me. The vastness of the sky is awesome. For
some years I wondered why the sky moved me so much. After pondering it
for sometime, I think I know the answer. It symbolizes God to me.
I look at the stars and see an infinitely large creation. I see a
thunderstorm and am fascinated by its incredible power. I sit on a knoll
watching a sunset and am enrapt by its beauty. I stand in the middle of
an open field and am lost in the incalculable expanse of the sky. The
sky is always there watching over us. What better symbol of God is
there? Flying lets me go up and immerse myself in that infinity.
That's the real secret of flying.