I sat across the table from the person sitting across the table from me. There were about 8 of us in this small, quirky establishment. I didn’t know the couple facing me, we’d just been introduced. After a few moments, word got out that I am a pilot. Hey, I’m cool with that! I love talking about flying.
Uh oh, but we have a safety conscious person here. Squinting into the dimly lighted space between us, the lady asked, “why do you do that, isn’t that dangerous — that sounds dangerous?” I love “why” questions! I love them because it’s hard to explain to the un-aviated, what the hell a Cessna 172 is, relative a Citation Ten. They’re both Cessna’s, right? But, why do you fly, I can connect that to many areas of nonflying life. This thing about safety though, there seems to be a lot of that going around lately.
Behind these scrunched faces, and bodies which shrink back into a protective posture at the thought of doing something unsafe is some assumption of what safe is. People say, “oh, I could never do that.” What do they mean by “can’t”?
Is that a physical limitation, the presumption of a physical limitation, a mental and emotional limitation — or some combination of these? I can only offer my personal experiences. I think many of these limitations are self-imposed, having little to do with what is possible. Why does this matter? It matters because, on the other side of these limitations awaits a vibrant life on fire with awesome. But is flying and the world really all that dangerous, really?
According to the most recent Joseph T. Nall report on General Aviation accidents, fatal accidents declined to 0.84 per 100,000 flight hours. Often there is a comparison tossed about where flying on a small plane is equivalent to riding on a motorcycle. That’s fine, but remember these numbers and comparisons include idiots. I think people assume everyone who receives a pilot license has been through some idiot screening process. While, the training process does have the affect of removing some percentage of idiots, it can’t be 100 percent effective — otherwise none of us would get through. There are some people who just aren’t going to mitigate risk when planning a flight, or hell, do any planning at all. I don’t mean to be insensitive or imply superiority. I’m fully aware I could find myself in an unfortunate circumstance one day, or I could make some ridiculous mistake. I’m human, it can happen to me. However, I also go to great lengths to mitigate as much risk as possible, overcome my human limitations, and regularly expand my capabilities. What about the world at large? Is it a big dangerous world?
If you watch too much of the twenty-four-hour news, then yes, it isn’t safe for anyone anywhere — we’re doomed. They are selling advertising, with a vested interest in presenting things as dramatically as possible. Turn that crap off! What are we doing camped out watching that jazz for anyway? Isn’t there something else we should be doing? Perhaps. Isn’t there some adventure we should be undertaking, something new we should be learning? Whatever those things are for you, they are your life and it’s waiting for you to get involved, already. But wait! You don’t feel like it. Perhaps we’ve gotten soft.
Modernity keeps us climate controlled, over fed, and hyper-stimulated with constant infotainment. Not sure? Put the cheese burger down and reflect. Theodore Roosevelt finished off a rather lengthy speech after suffering a gunshot wound. Jesse Owens won four medals in Hitler’s Aryan Berlin during the 1936 Olympics, and Wim Hof climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts. These things were difficult, uncomfortable, and reveal something about what we are capable of as human beings. My personal life has included some discomfort and struggle. Growing up, we raised most of our food. We worked incredibly hard. Due to some economic challenges, throughout my four years of high school, we had no air-conditioning. That would be inconceivable now days. Let’s be honest, many of us Americans are overfed, and comfortable to the point of being ineffectual. These things are reflected in our health statistics. We are horribly unhealthy. Take a look at these parameters from Art of Manliness: 5 Fitness Benchmarks. To that end, as an aviator, why would you allow your health to go into disarray?
You, and you alone, are responsible for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Ignorance isn’t a great excuse either. Information is not something in short supply these days. The point is, you aren’t going to feel very adventurous if your physical health is crap. Your mental health is not going to be fantastic either if you lack physical vibrancy. If you want to get a better lifestyle going, check out Rhonda Wilcox, The Fit Flyer. Yeah, she’s a girl pilot, fitness coach, etc. Let her kick your butt around the hangar a bit, you’ll be thankful later. Then you can get on about your next adventure — as a healthy person.
What is all this bit about adventure anyway? Maybe you aren’t an aviator, that’s ok. But there are probably some things the universe needs you to do. I think we’ve given over much of our daring and adventure to massive sports franchises, Hollywood, and other entities. These things are for-profit endeavors intent on transferring your money to them. That’s all really. Be a fan of something, that’s fine, but don’t let that take the place of your personal journey and adventure.
Is flying terribly unsafe? The statistics are there for perusing. Is the world going to hell in a flaming airframe breakup? Hell, I don’t know. I am in no way condoning recklessness, but life can be so safe, comfortable, and devoid of texture and authenticity, that there’s not much left to work with. If you are afraid of something, face it. It’s very healing. Facing your fears can also become a habit, a way of life — a game changer. You may have to be a little daring, a little wild, and go on a little adventure — a humongous one. Perhaps you’ll be on the news. For a long time, I tried to be ultra-safe. As it turns out, there is no life there. The universe is waiting. Airplanes don’t need rearview mirrors, and the only part of the runway that matters is laid out before you. Push all those fun levers forward.