Yesterday and Today, my brother-in-law James took me flying in his Cirrus SR-22 aircraft. James started flying a few years ago, and he is all in. He is making his way through all the flying certifications and currently building his hours. He owns a beautiful plane and has a hanger at a local field about 10 minutes from his home. As we discussed his commitment to flying, he told me his lifestyle has had to change to accommodate this new hobby. To build and maintain his skills and his aircraft flight status, he must log about 100 hours a year. That probably means flying once or more every week. He told me he has new circles of friends who fly, he travels with other pilots and goes to aviation events with them. At home, he and his wife get together and socialize with other aviators. It is exciting to see his all-in commitment.
People ask me why I don’t still fly, and I’ve never been able to answer that question. I have loved flying and it was my sole purpose when I was younger. But, rather than becoming a commercial pilot, I wanted to foray into business. My old F-15 pilot friends say “I used to LIVE to Fly and now I Fly to LIVE” after their transition to the airlines. (While recognizing what a great job it is). Another F-15 pilot sent me a card after flying for a couple of years with Southwest. I loved it when he asked “Hey Lucky, how many G-s did you pull this year? – I thought “The F-15 can pull 9 times the weight of gravity when turning” and his response was “Well, I pulled over 100” – a reference to his much more lucrative salary.
When I think in terms of Whitney Johnson’s learning adoption curve, it makes a little more sense.
For the first few years, I was significantly challenged with constant learning, upgrades, and transitions to new aircraft. As I got older, perhaps senior Captain to young Major, I was ramping up the curve and working toward mastery of my flying skills About the time I/we fell really good about our skills, the Air Force asks us to do other things, and flying becomes and additional duty versus our primary duty. Sometimes, we are asked to take positions with no flying responsibilities but with new and exciting challenges.
This crossroads requires the pilot to decide, “do I want to stay flying” or do I want to pursue other opportunities.” I didn’t know that I had passed this intersection, when I discovered that my career flying opportunities were limited. As I noticed that I was excelling at other opportunities, flying disappeared into the rear-view-mirror. It wasn’t a predetermined choice, it just came and went. Unfortunately, as is my nature, I kept looking toward the next thing. By the time I recognized what had happened, that opportunity had “flown the coop.”
Today, we flew over the forests of New Hampshire and admired the fall foliage. James let me fly most of the route and I did three landings and before you ask, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing!” The Cirrus is an amazing general aviation aircraft, often called the Ferrari of propeller aircraft (and that metaphor extends to cost as well). It compensated for my 15 year hiatus; but flying truly felt like riding a bike.
I have a yearning to keep flying. But I also have a yearning toward writing, lifting & obstacle racing, off-piste skiing, tennis, golf, travel, adventure and continued leadership development and support.
As I noted, I also recognize that I am often looking toward the next thing and miss the moment. My “soul’s” goals are in the future now, with new adventures and obstacles. I will definitely fly more in the future, but that life has moved on for me; and nobody will let me fly an F-15 again.
Thanks James for helping me remember what is like to be air “born,” and it was glorious!