Aviation for Perspective Reset
“There will always be a to do list,” my wife says. Tara is correct. I am a list-making maniac who enjoys getting things done. Sometimes she has to remind me to chill. I am ever increasingly aware of the virtue that is: living fully in the present. I had been busy, you know, doing real life. But flying and aviation can be therapy for the grumpy jackass.
Many Weeks Sans Aviation
In past weeks I had intended to do instrument approaches in actual IMC however, the weather just hadn’t been low enough to be appropriately challenging — weeks passed. Then, the weather was down to lots of zero-zero and thunderstorms. On one Sunday I made it an all day airplane festival with Microsoft Flight Simulator. While helpful, it just isn’t the same as flying the plane. Speaking of the plane, somewhere during these weeks the turn coordinator went belly-up. “There goes my instrument approaches,” I thought. On and on the weeks passed.
Spousal Support for the Afflicted Pilot
Like many wives, Tara isn’t particularly keen on joy-flying, however, she appreciates the psychological renewal I experience after an episode in the air. So she encourages me. That translates to: when I become a grumpy jackass due to aviation dissociation, she reminds me that I should go fly — for the fun of it. She was correct. I tossed the idea of instrument approaches, and IMC, and all that whatnot. I just needed to get in the air, period!
Today we Fly!
This particular Monday was severe clear and very windy. I’m not one to shy away from wind or crosswind landings, but I wasn’t interested in a bumpy ride either. I really needed a nice peaceful, smooth and relatively turbulence-free flight. That sounded like good medicine. My plan was to go fly the area around home, take in the sunset — simply horizon, stick and rudder VFR. The wind during the day was getting into the 30’s of knots. It reminded me of a time during Private Pilot training when I went out with my instructor on a day with these kinds of wind speeds and gusts. Let’s just say, pleasure wasn’t anywhere in the description of that flight. I’ll never forget watching him land the plane. That was a moment where those controls needed to be free and clear, because he used more travel on the controls that I, at that time, thought possible. Oh, the touchdown was pretty sweet. Back to this particular Monday. A little investigation indicated the wind intensity would slowly begin to ease during late afternoon. After work, I went home, grabbed my gear, and did a double-check of the area Notams and all of the other, “available information.”
All Quiet at the Airport
By the time I arrived at the airport the wind had settled to between 18 and 20 knots, the hair-restyling gusts from earlier had abated. The FBO parking lot and ramp was devoid of anyone and silent. The wind must scared everyone off, I thought, as I walked across the long empty stretch of pavement. “Had I missed something”, the little voice in the back of my mind queried. The FBO’s rental planes were still tied down from the previous day. If you arrive at the airport and find other pilots uncharacteristically absent, it’s a good idea to ask why. However, you also don’t want to give into to unsubstantiated fears either.
I voted yea, pre-flighted the plane, fired up the carbureted, air-cooled beast, and did the “alpha,” “charlie,” “delta,” “hotel,” “cross 22 at delta,” dance to runway 31.
Full power! The O-360 rocketed me down the runway and then away from earth with enthusiasm. Yeah, that sounds a little overkill for a C-172. But hey, when you haven’t flown for several weeks too many, that 180 hp is really invigorating. I climbed through a bumpity-bump at two thousand feet, and from then on, total smoothness. The view was nice and clear, early springtime green blanketed the ground below… the temperature, perfect. Inside our class D airspace the only aviators I heard on frequency were a commuter jet and a cargo-hauling Cessna Caravan. I headed south toward a VOR then southeast to a non-towered field for a few landings. The CTAF was silent, with no other planes in view. I orchestrated my brand of aviation — pretty good while always seeking excellence. Perspective is a funny thing. From that vantage point it seemed odd everyone wasn’t out flying on what turned out to be rather ideal evening.
Aviation can be Good Medicine
Recalling the mental image of flying north around sunset, with a real-time sky-painting off of the left wing, is one of my favorite experiences. This particular evening proved to be one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. There’s something special about defying gravity, on an otherwise unremarkable evening, to bring about the peaceful end to a ruckus day. “There will always be a to-do list,” but we can always find connection with something larger than ourselves. Therapeutic? Absolutely. Or put less eloquently, a great cure for the grumpy jackass. Tara nods in affirmation.
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