My first airplane ride was in 1965 when my family returned from Germany to the United States on a plane. I actually remember the flight and how excited I was when I saw the cockpit. I can’t put my hands on the wings I received as a young passenger, but I remember getting them.
From that point forward, I looked forward to every airplane ride I took. When I was thirteen, I asked my parents about learning to fly and the result was my dad taking me over to the Fort Knox, KY flying club. Along with my friend Jeff Gingras, I started ground school. To start actually flying, Jeff and I mowed lawns and started washing airplanes to start getting time in the air.
From the beginning there has always been pure joy when the plane lifts off the runway at my hands and then I find myself in control of a machine that is floating in space. As I got older, flying has been harder to schedule in my life, but I have made a conscious decision to keep up the skills because I feel it exercises a combination of life skills. I have to be versatile; have a mind for continuous learning while being practical. It’s not often that I’m able to practice these things together, but I find I need to do them in my work and personal life all the time. The skills I believe flying helps to keep sharp are:
- Understanding technical detail, being able to visualize complex systems and how they work.
- Remembering a wealth of information from textbooks and applying it in real life.
- Dexterity and co-ordination.
- The ability to think quickly and make decisions.
- The ability to receive and give clear, confident instructions and remain calm and take charge in very short time-frames.
Flying gives me a chance to rehearse these skills in a way that’s fun, but leaves me feeling I’ve done something to help me grow.