I love airplanes. Always have. Maybe it was growing up around March AFB in Riverside and going to all of those airshows, or perhaps the lore of my uncle Dave saving the day by belly landing a Ransom Airways plane at O’Hare, much to the chagrin of those in charge with maintaining the tarmac. No matter the reason, throughout my childhood I could be found, several hours a day, pouring over pages of books like this one.
To me, planes are an impossibly elegant expression of the better things man has to offer: vision, determination, knowledge, and daring. Watch a Boeing 747 land, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. There is no way something that immense should remain aloft. And yet, it does, beautifully. That plane is many a pilot’s sweetheart, with a reputation for smoothness and ease. It’s my favorite passenger jet to ride in (none of this Airbus stuff for me, thanks) and the absolute best to observe as it practically stands still on final approach, daring physics to deny it lift and forward thrust.
Bernoulli wins again!
It’s not just the airplanes. It’s the people who are involved in aviation, too. WWII bombardiers and radio operators, air traffic controllers, test pilots, designers, mechanical engineers, flight instructors. I like these people, and knowing them and hearing their stories makes my world so much richer. Do yourself a favor, and get to know about Bob Hoover or Dick Rutan. It’s an entirely different world, above our heads. It has its own language and hierarchy, and you are forced to relate to the world on a much grander scale: avoid that mountain, hug the valley walls, watch out for what looks like gnats on the horizon but are aerobatic planes over Santa Paula. Depart runway 21 (that’s two one, not twenty one) and turn right at the shoreline, report crossing the 118, slow down because you’re going to overtake a Cessna.
When we land, I always enjoy a sense of calm for a few hours. How can I worry about an audition when there are mountains that have trees on them older than I am? Why be upset when you can escape, and the only people who know where you are are the controllers?
And then there is the ritual beer after the flight. It never, ever, tasted so good. So I encourage you to find your local airport and check it out. Watch some planes land and take off. Dine at the restaurant and listen to what people are talking about. Take a flight lesson, support AOPA or Angel Flight. We are lucky to be alive when flight is so accessible and simple. Take advantage of it! I would love to hear from people who do, as a result of this blog.