Imagine travelling without getting stuck in traffic, being able to sprout wings and escape from sticky situations. Imagine opening your eyes to see nothing but dreamy clouds with the sun’s rays just beginning to creep over the distant horizon.
Flying isn’t just about getting from one place to another. You can do that on a bus or a train. It’s about enjoying every second of the journey. It’s about looking at birds fly and being able to fly higher than them, bringing to life the phrase ‘Soaring to new heights’. It’s about having in your hands the result of the dreams and hard work of countless people; millions worth of experimentation, study and research and lives lost in failed attempts.
Waking up at 2.00am is no easy task. Driving to the airport when nearly everyone else is asleep can be hard. But when you’re moving on the runway, throttle at full power for takeoff and you feel yourself pushed back in your seat as you gently rise into the air, you know it’s worth every bit.
As for landings, some are so smooth you barely realize you’ve landed. Other days aren’t so good and your landings could give the aircraft a nice shake. Flight training’s the best part of every pilot’s life because that’s when things you’ve only read about in books come to life and some things you never thought possible can happen.
‘You and your airplane seem to be going steady’
Pilots and their airplanes have an intimate bond. Even while on the ground, we look up to the skies at any passing aircraft, wanting to be in the cockpit, behind the controls. But here’s what the common passenger does not realize – something that becomes clear when you’re learning how to fly: every time you step onto an aircraft, you’re entrusting those two or three people in the cockpit with your life. We trust the crew with making the best decisions in every situation; an intimate connection with instinctive trust – like we trust our mums.
It’s serious business
All fun and games aside, flying is serious business. Pilots are directly responsible for the safety of their passengers, the aircraft and themselves. The bigger the aircraft, the more the responsibility. Common sense.
When I say serious business, I mean it. No matter how often you dream of flying, once you start taking lessons, there will be days when you question yourself and all you stand for. “Am I fit to do this?” “Is it okay to be lenient about one little thing because someone else has done it?”
Days like these will question everything you’ve believed in. Some nights you stay up till dawn, trying to justify that little loose screw you ignored during your pre-flight inspection of the aircraft. Or how about the in-flight engine noise that you failed to report to the maintenance guys? You might have come back safely after your flight, but what if the next person taking it out isn’t as experienced as you and fails to notice it? What if, god forbid, something happens?
Ask for help
One thing every student pilot, and everyone out there, should remember is – if you don’t know something, just say so. There’s no shame in asking for help if you need it. No shame in not knowing an answer. Better embarrassed and alive than proud and dead.
It’s a high love
After landing, as you walk away from your parked aircraft, you can’t help but turn back and long for the next time you get to do it again. That’s the beauty of flying. When you’re still flying a recreational trainer Cessna 172 or you’ve made it big and are flying the Airbus A380 SuperJumbo for a living, you can be sure of one thing – two flights will never be the same.
I’ll let Da Vinci have the last word:
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”