18 Dec 09 16 Comments

The wind is 22 gusting 30. I am sitting indoors, watching flight videos and reading accident reports. GA pilots go through accident reports like they are candy. We experience vicariously the scenarios that we desperately hope will never actually happen to us and what better time than when we are stuck on the ground anyway?

Brief Break in the RainIt’s the same every winter – my eyes start darting from the calendar to my log book to the calendar again as I edge towards becoming out of date. The weather and Christmas sloth combine to make flying seem like a chore. I can never get excited about circuits for the sake of circuits. I’d love to go somewhere; however travelling becomes riskier with the variable weather, the likelihood of getting stranded becomes higher. Every December, my desire to get into the plane hits an annual low.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives. I do the same when it comes to skiing. When I’m home, I think about the cold and the bruises on my shoulders from carrying the skis and the way the boots cut into my shins and the sore muscles and the wet gloves. But I know that when I’m up there, coming down the crystal white mountain, feeling the ground slide beneath me, making my way down the slope, it’ll all come back to me: this is why I do this. It’s a physical rush.

Flying doesn’t have quite the same effect or at least, not if everything goes to plan. I’m pleased if it is all goes as expected but I’m not breathless. I may gasp a bit if things go wrong, but the ball in the pit of my stomach while I try to sort it out is not a feeling I can claim to enjoy.

And so now, sitting safe and warm at the computer, I find it hard to get excited because I’m thinking about planning, not flying. I don’t want to get out the maps and get to the airport early and check the plane and beg ATC to fit me in between all the jet airliners. I can’t think of anywhere I want to go. It feels like hard work.

I go to the airfield anyway and sit in the coffee shop, listening to other grounded pilots. I’m hoping for a reminder of why I love flying, why I spend so much time and money and effort into this hobby. I want to be up there, conquering the sky, a young man says, gazing out the window with undisguised yearning. I have to hide my confusion. There is no such colonialist desire in my heart, I have no visions of conquest. But then I think about his words again and realise that I’m wrong. It’s not the sky that I want to subdue, it is myself.

I want to have flown more than I want to fly. I want to have survived another trip, I want to learn another trick, I want another story to tell. I want to conquer my own inexperience and ineptitude.

That young man might fly because he yearns for the freedom of flight but that isn’t what drives me.

I fly to land.

Every time I successfully land the plane I feel an adrenaline rush that it would take class A drugs to recreate. The first time, I was shaking as I got out of the plane but the victory was undeniable: I flew this plane and I brought it to the ground. I navigated and interacted and then touched the flying beast onto a specific runway at a specific point (sometimes even gently).

I fly to prove I can, over and over again.

What is it that draws you to flight? And was it always that way?

Category: Writing,


  • YES! It has always been the landings! The views are spectacular, the freedom simply amazing…but oh that rush when the wheels just kiss the runway…wow. You nailed it…thanks for the post.

  • I have to say it was the aerobatics that I loved most about flying, then the landings. Picking out a piece of real estate on that runway…the 4th stripe in the center line…or that discolored patch on the asphalt, and the tires kissing the pavement one more time. I really miss that. My health has taken my wings.

  • The precision, being able to put the aircraft just where you want it. The simple elegance of a barrel: roll hitting all of the numbers at just the right time. Yes, I understand that as well, but still its the landing that keeps me coming back. Sorry to hear about your health, but please continue to post … a pleasure to find another of like mind.

  • Dave: I’m glad it’s not just me.

    Don: I love steep turns, I have to admit.

    Especially when someone else does them *perfectly* in my plane (yes, I’m looking at you, Lee).

    I think you are right, the precision in both cases and getting it spot on.

    I don’t know where you are but in the UK I know a number of pilots who have gone for the NPPL because it does not require a full medical. It is much more limited than a PPL but could get you back into the air again.

  • I love flying because of the complete freedom when I am aloft. I am completely responsible for everything that happens in my plane. I love the planning and having the flight go exactly per plan. I love knowing how to resolve a problem in the air and having the confidence to do so. I love the joy of a perfect traffic pattern: 80 KIAS on climb-out; a 90 degree turn to downwind as the airspeed reaches 110 KIAS, rolling out at traffic pattern altitude; Manifold pressure to 13 inches, 1 notch flaps and a 90 degree turn to base at 90 KIAS; a 90 degree turn to final and decelerating to 75 KIAS on the VASI; smooth touch down right on the center line. I love the fascination in a new passenger’s eyes as I explain Bernoulli’s principle and lift. I love the exactness required on a 2+ hour flight in IMC, culminating in the LOC 17 approach at my home airport, right on the rabbit. I love arranging the cockpit and seats and belts after a flight, covering my plane and tapping the propeller as I walk away saying, “Thanks, Mike-Mike.” What do I love about flying: EVERYTHING.

    • I hope that no one minds if I bring this post back from the dead.

      The closest I can come to explaining my reasons for flying would be that it demands my full attention. When the ground drops away at take-off, my anxieties vanish and my mind is fully focused on flying. Several of the other comments posted ring true as well; I love to manage systems; I love doing 2G turns and not losing ay altitude and indeed, I love landing. I got to the point that most of my landings were good enough that I was happy with them and damn, that feels good.

  • I started flying to satisfy a dream. I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to be up there, and that drive got me through my private pilot certificate.

    After that, it became a game of proficiency. And that led me to the point I am today.

  • Initially, it was the sheer joy of experiencing flight and seeing the world from a view that most people never have. In recent years teaching flying has become even more fun. There’s nothing like the shared accomplishment of helping someone accomplish their flying objectives…particularly when they end the lesson with an exceptional landing!

  • When I landed after my initial Instrument Rating skill test, the examiner told me: “You don’t like to fly, you like to manage the systems”.

    He was perfectly right. I like to make all the things work together, understand it all, and achieve a great flight.

    I love your “I fly to land”. Brilliant.

  • Love the idea of ‘I fly to land’

    I must admit, from the moment you hit that inbound reporting point to the moment you taxi off the runway, is the most fun and most challenging part of the flight. That is where pressure is the greatest and you really have to work.

    I guess I too ‘fly to land’

  • There is a multitude of reasons I enjoy flying, but to narrow it down I have two specific things that really keep me going. Takeoff and, like you and others, landing.

    For me, takeoffs are an amazing experience – man conquering gravity at will.

    Landings on the other hand, more than any other aspect of flying, require precision and finesse. They bring out the best and the worst in my flying – everything is laid bare. If I have done everything correctly, I am rewarded with the soft squeek of rubber hitting pavement. If I do too much incorrectly things can get ugly.

    So to make this long story short, I fly to land and I do so because it forces you to be at your best.

  • flying is just a dream. I want to force the dream to continue. this dream consists of the challange to keep all things going wright. to make the times of doing nothing up there as short as possible I keep the legs short and land on different aiports along the route. this pushes up the adrenaline and feeds all impessions. especially in unknown areas the radio and navigation raises this challange.
    so grab the chance to raise upon new challanges!

  • I’ve pointed a couple people at this post just to read the comments. This is a great compilation of reasons to fly (and keep flying)!

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