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?
It’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every winter – my eyes start darting from the calendar to my log book to the calendar again as I edge towards becoming out of date.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?