This was sent to me by a friend, Rory Kay who, as he says, "flies big aeroplanes for a big company". It's his reaction to "Why just marvel?...why not fly?"
As a 54 year old pilot flying big planes for a big company, I frequently
ask myself why I am still doing it, and what the attraction is,
especially at 3 am at 30 West over the Atlantic, plotting out a course
to go around a nest of storms. A somewhat cynical response to myself,
usually to atop the conversation in my head, is "It's the money
stupid!" or "It's all you know how to do you moron; you can't even
change a light bulb without plunging half of Virginia into darkness!"
And then I usually develop the thoughts, and allow myself to drift back
to when I was a nipper growing up in Guernsey in the 60's, and the most
wonderful memories come flooding back. I grew up next to the airport at
La Villiaze, and it was easy and safe to walk or bike to the spotter's
area, and just hang out. I was fascinated at all the types of aircraft
taking off and landing, sometimes in quite an entertaining manner,
depending on the winds. I recall long lazy summer holidays spent
watching with awe the Bristol Freighters, the Aero 145's, the Viscounts,
the Herons, the Daks, the Heralds, the Carvairs, the Cessnas, Austers
and Pipers, thinking, "I want to do that". And I remember all the
pilots in those days in Guernsey, the WW2 veterans flying DC 3's for
BEA, Intra, Morton Air Services, Aurigny, with their fine uniforms
adorned with in some cases with their service medals. There was
Aurigny's Pat Swoffer contentedly puffing away on his pipe as he walked
through the terminal, with that kindly smile, or Bill Stewart sitting up
there in the cockpit of the Intra Dakota, with his headset on over his
hat, and I thought they were God-like. Occasionally one would even talk
to me! And I thought, "I want to be one of them!"
I did not think "I am GOING to do that" when I was 8 or 9, because it
did not occur to me that I could find a way to fulfil those dreams.
That came later. Just hanging out was good enough then.
Fast forward a few years to 15. I still had the long lazy summer to
look forward to, but there was an added dimension to consider - a clear
need for money. A need for money, and a love of watching aeroplanes
fly....so I wandered on impulse into the local Aero Club, and said I
wanted a job. The interview lasted about 15 seconds, and I was duly
"employed" to clean the Cessna 150's in exchange for occasional
flights. I couldn't believe it; and it came true for me. Lots of
flights with club members and an occasional more formal lesson, one of
the first of which was stalling and spinning to see if I could be put
off. I most certainly could not.
Then it was 17th birthday and I soloed on a warm June morning. From
then on it never occurred to me that I should do anything else. I just
ached to get in a plane and fly it.
You have to try it to understand and appreciate what it feels like. Not
flying Microsoft Simulator, not sitting in the back of an airliner. You
have to fly. To me it is almost a narcotic. I dread the day when I
Since that first solo, I have flown as an instructor at Oxford, a bush
pilot in Africa, a corporate pilot at Luton, and an airline pilot and
check airman flying many narrow and wide body planes around the world.
I stopped counting the hours years ago. They matter not a fig any more.
What I do know is that in all the high tech flying I have done, nothing
compares to handling the basic single engine planes that brought me to
this place. Lazy cross countries across France in a 150, aeros in a Cub
or a Chippy - it is impossible to beat that feeling.
For all the grumbling we do as professional pilots, the stolen pensions,
the (in our case) 40% wage reductions, the reporting for duty at 10 pm
for a 12 hour flight, the plate of pig's swill presented to me that is
my dinner, I am constantly reminded of one solid truth...
They can take away many things from me, my pay, my pension, but they
will never take away my pride at being a pilot; it is the most wonderful
experience to sit in that Chipmunk or Cessna cockpit and just fly. No
radios, no GPS, no Flight Director, no Autopilot, no co-pilot whining
about everything imaginable, eyeing my seat intently.
And he sent this: