A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

September 2009.

First Flight

          Ask any pilot.  They all remember their first solo flight.  Mine was a disappointment.  A total non-event.  The instructors had taught me well.  Well enough to feel absolute confidence in my ability to fly that airplane.  I feel robbed of the feelings, the exhilaration so many pilots recall.  It was just like any other flight.  The ritual at many schools now is a bucket of water dumped on a fledgling pilots head.  Back in the early 70’s, I attended a school that didn’t do that.  It was at a little flying service in Prince George, British Columbia, and early in 1973 when they let me take off alone.  A few months later there was a brand new private license in my hip pocket.  I was young, free and somehow had enough money to pay the $745 it cost to pay for the training.  I was also early in a broadcasting career, working for the last television station in the country (so I was told) to be broadcasting a black & white signal.  That’s a long time ago! 

          Like others who always knew they wanted to fly, somewhere along the way the seed was planted in my head that I needed to do it too.  I set my sights on becoming a commercial pilot, and perhaps someday flying the orange 737’s that CP Air was using at the time.  But the obstacles quickly became apparent.  The biggest was the reality of logging 250 hours to qualify for the commercial license.  How could a guy earning a disc jockey’s salary afford it when the rental cost of the plane was $17 an hour?   

          Inevitably, like many others with the dream, I came back down to earth.  It was back to the job, to life as it was supposed to be.  We all kept our feet anchored to the ground, paid the mortgage, bought food, a car and got on with life.  Some married, raised families, and survived somehow without flying.  The time came eventually when all those things were out of the way, and it was right to get back to flying.  Pick up where we left off back when the dream was real.  It never dies, it just gets temporarily deleted by the reality of life.  The spark smolders on.

          Those memories come back each time I get an e-mail from someone who writes with his story.  They’re so similar, I could have written them all and mailed them to myself.  Some guys are still dreaming, hoping to someday find the time and money to fly again.  Some have done it, now that the important things in life are out of the way.   After many years of my ‘mundane life’, an opportunity came up for a partnership in a Cessna 150.  It was the right time.  I happened to be there in the right place.  Following all that’s necessary, I soon had my medical back, a ground school done, and a check ride complete.  It was finally time to get down and train for the commercial license. 

          At age 48, I finished what I started in my early 20’s.  By then, the end of a paramedic career was in sight, and the resumes were going out to air operators across the north.  Initially, no one wanted to hire me, an old pilot with low time, but there were other ways to fly.  Owning an aircraft or two was a good thing.  And living close to a couple of glider and parachute operations made it possible to fly on a part-time basis.  The pay was rotten, but the time all went into my logbook.  It was the hours I needed, not the cash. 

          Very soon I landed a bush flying job, seasonal work, which I preferred.  Now each summer I seek out something where someone needs a temporary pilot for a few months.  Over the years, flying never became a real job.  Too many pilots end up wishing they were on the ground.  Too much of anything can turn you off what you’re doing.  Flying should not become something you want to stop.  We all know pilots who have hobbies like sailing, woodworking, restoring old cars, things that normal people do for a living and whose hobby is flying.  Strange, that we all want something different, and that those who have it will always be envied by those that don’t … whatever it is.

          If this sounds like you, don’t think you’re alone.  Don’t think your life, your dream, is different from everyone else.  In that regard, you are not unique.  Your choices are: go back to flying, or forget it.  For those who don’t have the choice because of a medical issue, you have my sympathy.  If flying an airplane is on your list of things to do before you die, go out and find a way.  Befriend a pilot.  Pay him for the fuel, pay for the rental, whatever it takes.  You wouldn’t want to be checking out at the end of your life still wishing for a dream come true.  

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