For the love of... Aviation??

For the love of... Aviation??

Today started like any other day, actually, that's a lie... No two-days are the same. I went downstairs and peeked out the window to see a gentle breeze blowing and that meant flying! My boys have two Styrofoam airplanes, the kind you throw and the wings pop off and you re-attach them and throw again, and had waited through a terrible storm yesterday to fly them. I had purchased a new R/C aircraft from +Horizon Hobby called a ParkZone flyer and wanted to fly it, too.

We ran outside, still in our pajamas, and immediately I began shaking. I mean like a kid on Christmas morning that sees a package wrapped suspiciously like the bicycle he's wanted all year. I set the new plane down and throttled it up for some taxi checks followed by a deep-breath and mental boost of confidence. I thought to myself, "You can do this! You're a pilot with several hundred hours! Lock it up!" throttled up gently and off she went. After about 10 feet she lifted off with ease and I could feel my body getting lighter as it rose higher and higher into the air. By this time she's only about two feet off the deck but to me it may as well be 30,000 feet! Immediately after that a gentle, but firm, gust of wind grounded the aircraft... thanks a lot mother nature. Those are my emotions that just went nose-first into the grass. But, I cut the throttle and she planted gently into our uncut grass with no damage to anything other than my ego. You know what? Maybe I should just let the kids enjoy the breeze? What follows is that account....

My youngest son lead the way with his ominous "Oooh, Daddy, you crashed it!" Yes, thank you son, I'm full aware of my aircraft's body-angle to the relative wind and subsequent full-stop in the grass. To which he promptly declared "Watch this, Daddy!" and he launched his Styrofoam Dreamliner from his hand, into the wind, and into his dreams forever. The look on his face, even when the wings popped off, was fantastic! My oldest son looked like a young Lindbergh as he ran down the street, arm extended high over his head, ready to release his aircraft into the wind. The result was dramatic... rise, apex, loop, decent, and landing. Over and over the cycle repeated itself. I grabbed my lawn chair and enjoyed the show. My youngest son, on the other hand, had flown/crashed/modified his so much that the repairs had caused significant and dramatic negative effects to the airfoil. Translation: he had too much tape on his to fly! He didn't notice though and loved it for what it was... Flying!

I have held a private pilot's license from the FAA for over 20 years and I still remember my first time at the controls. In the last years of what I will call the "Golden Age" of flying you could still visit the flight deck of commercial jets and chat with the flight crew. I had flown so often when I was younger that I knew the "Unaccompanied Minor" procedures better than most stewardesses. I also had quite a collection of those little plastic wings that you used to get on the flights. It was magical! Just being airborne was exhilarating! Being at the controls was incomparable, but sharing my two son's first flight... "Priceless"

A good friend of mine had told me a story about one of his colleagues that had met his "hero", a famous architect who had essentially invented the geodesic domes that you see around the country as well as an element of carbon previously undiscovered. At any rate, the story goes that after meeting him he asked "...how do you do it? How, at the age of 86, do you stay on top? Ahead of your game?" The "hero" answered, "I ride a hobby horse." He stared blankly at his hero and thought it must be some deep meaning and nodded approvingly. The elderly man looked at him, knowing that he was obviously lost, and said "Would you like to see it?" He led him into his bedroom where he pulled his hobby horse out of his closet, literally a child's wooden hobby horse. Ignoring his guest's look of astonishment he told him, "Every morning I wake up, the same I have for the past 80-plus years, and then I ride my hobby horse. I ride my hobby horse and don't think about anything. I clear my mind and allow myself to 'think like a child'." It was the "think like a child" part that you're supposed to get out of this. Children are not fettered by their knowledge, or what they think they know. They don't know how badly a stove can burn them regardless of your repeated warnings not to touch it. Think like a child, outside of the box, free from the constrictions of the world that we have experienced and the doubt that paralyzes us from accomplishing our dreams!

My sons didn't care that their airplane's wings popped off every time they threw it, or that they had to chase the airplane down, re-assemble it, run back, and re-launch it. They didn't care that the wind was far outside of the envelope for successful flight or that it wasn't a "real" airplane to being with. They were having fun, feeding their immediate desires, and just enjoying the moment. They weren't worried about anything or anyone not directly related to their happiness... And I enjoyed the moment from my new lawn chair.
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