Why fly?

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 
cannot fly.

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.

Just fly.
And he sent this: