A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

September 2014 

Man Was Meant to Fly

“If man was meant to fly, he’d have been born with wings”.  How many times have we heard that from a non pilot, or from someone who’s afraid to fly?  Even from someone who’s afraid to admit he’s afraid to fly. 

      Clearly, man WAS meant to fly.  We also swim beneath the surface of the water without having to come up for air.  We travel at warp speed, see in pitch dark, observe through walls and flesh, keep warm in sub zero temperatures, listen to sounds hundreds of miles in the distance.  Pretty amazing considering we begin life as tiny, helpless, unseeing, soaking wet bundles requiring absolute and total care.  

      But more important, we were all born with a brain.  The wonders of the human brain include its ability to form and shape thoughts, ideas, concepts, and to make decisions.  Undoubtedly the most complex life form on earth, the brain is man's ticket to accomplishing all we do.   

     Emotions are formed there as well.  Emotions called anger, love, pain, and excitement are all part of this highest form of life.  Without emotions, there would be no one flying, or swimming, or traveling, or doing any of the things that enhance our lives.  That’s because we do all these for the excitement, the emotion they create in us.  

     Passion springs from the enjoyment and excitement of an activity.  We hear that word, passion, so often when we talk about our leisure hours.  Boredom is overcome by our passions, whatever they may be, from gardening to photography, writing to making wine, and of course by airplanes and flying them. 

      Orville and Wilber Wright were passionate about flight.  We’re lucky they were!  But if it weren’t for them, someone else would have taken up the cause, and in any case, there’s no doubt we would still be flying today.  The time for flying had come.  There was enough knowledge around back then to accomplish it.  All that was needed was the passion and excitement to put it all together.   

      Many wonder, “What’s next.  Where do we go from here?”   The futurists have their own ideas, and there’s nothing more interesting than a documentary featuring their forays into the years ahead. Aviation magazines are full of what’s happening and what’s coming for the future of flight.  For many years, navigation aids like GPS platforms were featured and talked about by everyone.  Then came the glass cockpit concepts, along with electronic engine and flight monitoring equipment.  Advances in engine technology share the spotlight these days.  Turbines and diesels, even electric motors may well be in our future in a big way. 

      In just over one hundred years, we’ve gone from the Wright brothers to supersonic airliners, vertical flight and space travel.  Even with all this progress, when you remove the cowling from your general aviation airplane, you’ll find technology that’s over 50 years old.  The engines in the largest portion of the GA fleet are still the old Continentals and Lycomings.  It’s like we’ve taken these giant steps forward, but with the other foot we’ve taken only baby steps.  One side hasn’t kept pace with the other.  A good thing or a bad thing?  That’s really a separate question.  Many pilots feel much safer behind one of these engines than something that’s newer and not yet a proven design.  On the other hand, it’s been asked, “How can technology that’s 40 or 50 years old be as reliable as something developed in the past few years?”    With new materials and procedures, manufacturers should be capable of building an even better engine.   

     There is no doubt that aviation, like all technologies, will continue to change and advance.  It may have slowed down a tad, reached somewhat of a plateau in the last few years, but there is evidence of it taking off again.  There will always be people with a terrific passion for making things better, and that includes those in the field of aviation.  As long as we have emotions like “passion” and “excitement”, this progress will continue.

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