A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

August 2014 

Ya but Superman Could Fly   

   There is nothing profound or special about this article today.   There’s really no other reason for me to be writing it except to point out the qualities of a successful life.  It’s about how a young man believed in himself, his decisions and his ideas, even when it came to flying without wings.

     Arthur was an overactive six-year old who got himself in a whole mess of trouble his entire young life.  His family lived in a small town in Northern British Columbia.  I met Arthur sometime in the late 1980’s while early in my career as an ambulance paramedic.  He was a patient we had on a medevac flight following one of his brushes with death.  The warning label on the Superman costume he got for Christmas stated:  “Caution:  Cape DOES NOT enable the user to fly”.  

       Of course a six-year-old can’t be expected to understand directions like that, but maybe someone ought to have pointed it out to him before he leaped from an upstairs window and landed in the snow twenty feet below.  The little fellow had a few broken bones as a result.  

        He was stabilized at the local hospital, but the doctor on duty decided he needed further cervical spine x-rays, and he should be seen by a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital.   We were called to fly him to Vancouver.    There was a spare seat so Arthur’s mother came with us.   During the flight, I asked her about his previous history.  She told me he had a lot of scrapes, bruises, some broken bones, and that his older brothers had put him in a clothes dryer when he was about eighteen months old, and started it up.   He rode around in that for a few minutes until his parents wondered why the floor of the whole house seemed to be vibrating.   His injuries weren’t too severe, but he was observed on a heart monitor overnight in hospital. Apparently there was a possibility of electrical current passing through his body.   The 240 volt breaker was blown, the result of too much weight in the dryer! 

           “Arthur”, I said to him.  “How was it to fly out the window at your house?” 

          “Really cool”, he replied.  “I knew I could do it …. Just like Superman”.  Although he was lying flat on a stretcher with a cervical collar around his neck, his enthusiasm radiated like a giant Christmas light.  I needed to remind him to lie still, because there were more x-rays to be done to confirm his neck was OK.  He let his outstretched arms drop back to his sides. 

            “Didn’t anyone tell you that you’ll need WINGS to fly?”

            “Ya, but Superman doesn’t have wings!”  Already he had his arms up again, and continued on.  “He just puts his arms out, and takes right off”. 

              “Arthur you have to keep your arms down”.

              “I couldn’t take off from the ground, so I jumped out the window.   But it didn’t work too good”. 

              I glanced at his mom.   She sighed, and reminded the little boy to stay still.

               My sense of Arthur was that he had enormous faith in himself, confidence that he could do about anything he put his mind to.  His mom filled me in on more of his past.  He could already skate and play hockey better than all the kids in the neighborhood.  Report cards from his grade one class talked about his exceptional academic abilities and natural leadership qualities, even at his young age.

                But he was almost too much for his family to contend with.  Obviously his mother was proud of him but she seemed to be fearful at the same time.   Fearful for his safety and his future.  This episode of believing he was Superman was something she almost expected was going to come from Arthur. 

                 In those days, I already had a private pilots license.  To divert attention from any fears that this boy had about his injuries and what was happening to him, I asked him if he ever thought he’d like to fly an airplane himself.   “Yes”, he responded.   “I’ve thought of that.  When I grow up that’s something I’d like to do for sure”.  

                His mom didn’t look surprised. 

                “We’re flying right now aren’t we?”  Because the stretcher was too low for him to see out the window, Arthur could only see the sky above through the small round opening. 

                  “Yes we sure are”, I told him.   “While you were sleeping, we took off heading for Vancouver.   Have you ever been to Vancouver?”  

                   “No.  But someday I want to go.  I’ve seen it on TV.  You can make a lot of money and have a lot of fun in a big city like that.”

                     The sedation kept Arthur quiet for the rest of the flight.  He was fortunate to have a good outcome from the jump, his injuries were not life-threatening or serious, and within a few months I heard he’d made a complete recovery.  Over time, I almost forgot entirely about this extraordinary little guy, but was surprised to get an e-mail from his mother who had stumbled on one of these articles and wondered if it could have been me in that jet with her and her son.   It was now twenty five years later.   Arthur was by then thirty one, happily married and was running a successful business.   Not surprisingly, it’s in Vancouver.  He had never gone to college, apparently didn’t have time for that.  He went into a sales job which didn’t end well.   But he had faith in the product and ended up buying and running the entire company.   He also learned to fly!   Arthur had a private license, and had at one time considered upgrading to a commercial license and pursuing a flying career.  But by then, he was apparently too successful in business to give it up and go flying full time.

                    So he’s happily doing whatever he chooses to do.   He’s a young man with determination, drive, ability and the attitude to be anywhere he wants.  The note from his mother stated that she is relieved he grew up, because he put his energy to good, sensible projects, and never again tried to fly off the roof of his house.   He was game to try anything at least once.   In his business, it took two attempts and had gone broke between them.   But that’s the kind of kid he is.  He failed at sales, but exceeded in ownership and management of the company.  He always had faith in himself and his decisions.  Somehow he survived the falls, ended up on his feet and proved that Superman can fly.

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