A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

October 2010                 

    Do You Fly to Live, or Live to Fly?

Who among us has not watched in amazement, a soaring bird or an aircraft of some sort and not been fascinated, wondering what it’s like to be up there?  Who has not marveled at those, both man and beast who have broken the bonds and taken flight?  Within all of us there lies a dream.  In many, that dream is to fly.  We believe it, we live because of it.  The thrill we come to expect silently molds our future.

Harrison Ford revealed in a magazine interview once, his feelings about flying.  "Learning to fly was a work of art. I'm passionate about flying. Flying is like good music; it elevates the spirit and it's an exhilarating freedom."

There are those unfortunate souls however, who have never had the good fortune to experience flying.  They’ve never even wondered, never wished they could fly.  And some are determined that we should not fly either!

This article could be about politicians and bureaucrats, the front-liners who are seemingly against us.  But I speak of environmentalists.  After stating in his magazine interview that he often flies “up the coast for a cheeseburger”, Harrison Ford was criticized by a group running a website called CARBONFOOTPRINT.COM.  These people, obviously not pilots, were outraged that he would use his airplane to make such an unnecessary trip.  They called on Ford to set an environmental example and cut back on his flying.

Ford’s response was something like “I’ll start walking everywhere when they start walking.” 

If you consider yourself a savior or the environment, before you get on my case about these statements, let me assure you I’m not advocating pollution, in the air, the water or anywhere else.  But with general aviation (the hamburger boys) perhaps responsible for less than 1% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, isn’t there someplace else you need to be?

The thrill of flight, the dream in a person, is the reason to live rather than just exist.  What kind of world would it be if everyone, every day of their lives simply watched the clock, waiting for quitting time?  There is so much more potential in the human soul, the potential to soar above the mundane, the drudgery and mind-numbing, boring day-to-day drivel.  Some choose a form of excitement as their outlet.  They ski, climb mountains, ride motorcycles, drive race cars, they sail, swim, run marathons …. while some fly airplanes.  I say if that’s your passion, then do it.  We’re held back at every turn, by responsibility, protocol, rules, society in general.  Don’t let them stop you with their agendas.  Remind these coalitions, societies, bureaucracies and other ‘friends of something-or-other’, of the tremendous contributions to the good in the world that aviation is responsible for.

Aviation in general has always been a popular whipping post, easily singled out and dumped on by someone with an axe to grind.  Airplanes are noisy, annoying, they disrupt wildlife, they’re dangerous, they’re security risks, and of course they pollute the air.  While it would be much easier to point the finger at the automobile (apparently the number one polluter in most cities) it’s those who are pointing who are the drivers.  Unless they’re willing to walk, I’m not willing to give up flying. 

Someday in the future, airplanes and cars will be burning something other than petroleum-based fuels. Already electricity and hydrogen are on the proving grounds.  Humans have the ability to think, to reason, to invent new products and procedures which harmonize our lives and environment.  History shows how far we’ve come, and we’ll get through air pollution too.  To some, it can’t come fast enough.  But I want to experience “living”, not just ‘life’.  And sometimes that means a balancing act between what’s good for us physically and what’s good emotionally too. The day that a clean-burning, lead-free fuel comes along to power our airplanes can’t come soon enough. But it will come. By then, the people advocating national security may have grounded us all anyway.

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