Everyone sees things in their own way… regardless, I am certain most pilots would nod in the affirmative regarding the sense of freedom found in flying. VFR flight, in particular, has in its essence a strong freeing quality.
While flying visually, you don’t need most of the instruments; through sight picture and pilotage you can successfully get where you aim. This freedom can be the sort that relieves stress, helps realign your overall perspective, and points you toward a sense of adventure— lifting you out of the mundane. Furthermore, if you love the mountains, combining aviation and the wonder of our national granite scapes — well that’s about as good as it gets.
Well. . . here we are back in the chilly time of year. All of the General Aviation advocacy groups are squawking about the treachery of icing and how to decipher the different weather gremlins who seek to put their subzero finger prints upon our machines of flight. Being in a part of Texas where the gremlins of winter are usually smaller than the neighbors annoying lap dog, I prefer this season to the thundering mega-giants of the convective summer. Generally our freezing level is pretty high so getting some good actual instrument experience is easy to do.
It wasn’t necessarily planned, but received both my private and instrument instruction through the big middle of winter. That made for some really challenging landing practice with the funky, post cold front north wind. On the other hand, it offered up some really good actual IFR time both during the day and at night.
Given the timing of my training stints, when the seasons change, I can’t help but remember the early days of flight training. I will probably never forget the feelings that coursed through my body as I arrived at the nearly vacant FBO at 6:30am, walking across the ramp to the venerable C172, unnaturally tethered to the earth. The unavoidable poking and prodding of the aircraft in an attempt to find the one thing that might spoil the fun of the ensuing flight. The memories are so vivid with the early morning sunlight this time of year; as it makes it’s first low pass over the new day.
The reward for overcoming a vast array of ignorance is cross country flights over beautiful changes of color and being soloed to practice on your own. If the construction crew working on the extension of runway 4 had only known what was happening each time I wobbled down final trying to get a handle on “the landing thing.” I am ever grateful for the flags atop the dozers and dump trucks providing a visual affirmation of the whimsy of the wind.
I remember a handful of lessons into my private training when the wind was all in a huff with pounding fists of gusty-ness. My instructor and I got all strapped into the, yet to be cranked, plane as it shook from the relentless heaves.