“There will always be a to do list,” she says. “She,” (the wife) is correct. I am a list-making maniac, who enjoys getting things done. At the same time, I am ever increasingly aware of the virtue that is: living fully in the present. I had been busy, but I desperately needed to go flying. It didn’t begin as desperation, but a gradual tightening of the noose lead to that.
Initially, my motivation was to do some instrument approaches in actual IMC — but the weather just wasn’t low enough… weeks passed. Then, the weather was down to Concorde minimums, with thunderstorms. That was on a weekend, so I turned the opportunity into an almost, all-day airplane festival with Microsoft Flight Simulator (more about that in a future post). As more weeks rushed by, the turn coordinator went belly-up… “well, there goes my instrument approaches,” I thought. The passing of the weeks, piled up like mountains and the aircraft was just… generally, unavailable. Considers jumping out of one-story window.
Like many wives, mine 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. In other words, when I become a grumpy jackass, due to aviation asphyxia, she’s encouraging. Finally, I decided it had been long enough. I tossed the idea of instrument approaches, and IMC. I just needed to get in the air, period!
That Monday was severe clear, but very windy. I’m not one to shy away from wind or crosswind landings, but I wasn’t interested in a bumpy ride, rather, a nice peaceful, smooth, turbulence-free flight… that seemed to the required medicine. My plan was to go fly the area around home, take in the sunset — the horizon, stick and rudder, VFR. But, golly, the wind during the day was getting into the 30’s of knots. A little investigation, indicated that 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.”
By the time I arrived at the airport the wind had settled to between 18 and 20 knots, sans the the hair-tossing gusts from earlier. The FBO parking lot and ramp was empty and silent. “the wind must scared everyone off,” I thought, as I walked across the long empty stretch of pavement, flight gear in hand. Had I missed something, said the little voice in the back of my mind. Echoes of the hundreds of articles about tragic flying scenarios bubbled on the surface of my conscience. I have an antidote for these types of demons. A saying… “don’t do anything, or nothing, out of fear.” This helpful mantra has kept me out of a jam countless times — it causes me to be decisive; whether the decision is yea or nay, I am obligated to have a reason. That leads to reasonableness, and being reasonable is… well, advisable — particularly for the aviator, and most other life things.
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 efficiency and enthusiasm. The C-172, with the 180hp upgrade, climbs like crazy in the dense, cool air, and in short order I turned on course — the options for safely returning to the runway firmly in-hand. There was 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. In the airspace, the only audible participants were a commuter jet and a cargo-hauling Cessna Caravan. I headed south to a VOR, then to a non-towered field for a few landings. The CTAF was silent, with no other planes in view. I orchestrated my aviation mediocrity upon the airport environs, alone. It seemed odd on an evening which turned out to be so ideal that the sky would be so empty.
Flying north at sunset, with the real-time sky-painting off of the left wing, is one of my favorite flying experiences. This particular evening proved to be one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. There’s something especially profound in the defiance of gravity, orientating oneself by the horizon, itself an illusion — to bring about the peaceful end to a ruckus day. As with the checklist, “There will always be a to-do list,” but, if in the acceptance of responsibility, we find connection with something larger than ourselves — even if illusory, is it not worth it? Therapeutic? Furthermore, if it belays the tensions and curmudgeon-like tendencies, is not it’s value even more enhanced? Indeed, I find flying a great balm for the condition of, grumpy jackass. She (the wife) nods in affirmation.