Why Do You Fly?

Sunset Landing

Like most people who read this blog, I’ve had a fascination with flying ever since I can remember.  As a young boy, I would attend air shows, build model airplanes, and endlessly read books on aviation.  During my teenage years I plastered the walls of my bedroom with posters of fighter jets and looked for opportunities to get to the nearby Air Force base to check out the aircraft every chance I could.  Although I knew I loved aviation, I never clearly articulated why.  It wasn’t until I was halfway through Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) that I defined why I wanted to fly.  As I share my reasons for making flying my profession, I’d invite you to think about the reasons you fly.  Perhaps they may help you decide, if you haven’t already, whether or not you want to make a career out of aviation.

There is a strange serenity one encounters high above the earth.  In spite of whatever mission is taking place, there is typically a lucid moment during which you appreciate the beauty of the earth from above.  The traffic, pollution, and general chaos that exist on the surface all but disappear as altitude increases.  For me, night flying is very relaxing.  Even after a long, difficult mission, there is something spectacular about flying the precision approach back to an airfield surrounded by the glow of city lights.  Regardless of whether I fly during the day or at night, getting airborne calms my mind and helps me to appreciate my place in the universe.

Abigail Adams once said, “The habits of a vigorous mind are born in contending with difficulties.”  Flying is a challenge.  Depending on the situation and circumstances, it can be one of the most challenging things you do.  Every flight requires you to exercise “stick and rudder” skills to control the aircraft, employ your ability to navigate safely to your destination (even if you’re just flying around the proverbial flagpole), and apply the art of decision-making under the various circumstances in which you fly.  All of these required skills come together in the form of airmanship.  I find practicing and improving airmanship to be a worthy challenge – a challenge of which I never tire. Regardless of the aircraft you fly, there will be challenges associated with it. The challenges associated with flying help me stretch my limits and give me a sense of self-actualization.

“The habits of a vigorous mind are born in contending with difficulties.”
– Abigail Adams

Prior to flying for the Air Force I was a financial analyst for a business development company.  I enjoyed many aspects of the job, but I often found myself contemplatively staring out the window at an aircraft winding its way across the azure sky.  I wondered what it would be like to be the one at the controls of that aircraft.  I tried to picture myself sitting at my desk crunching numbers for the next five to ten years (or more), and I quickly realized that I had missed my calling in life.  I knew that I could always come back to a career in business, but at that point in my life I needed to pursue my passion.  I needed to answer a call that sounded relentlessly within me; a call that wouldn’t allow me to remain tied to a desk regardless the amount of money attached to it.  I firmly believe there is something innate in every one of us who flies, something that piques our interest and lures us aloft.  Answering that call is yet another reason I fly.

Little Pilot

There is one more reason I choose to fly, although I must admit this was more an unintended consequence than a deliberate motive.  When pilots meet, there is an immediate connection – we recognize we’re all part of the same club.  It is a small club, and – dare I say – an elite one.  We know what it is to command an aircraft skyward and we know that for those minutes (or hours) we spend free from the chains of the earth, we are truly the masters of our fate.  It is due in part to that knowledge that we tend to draw to each other.  Anytime I meet a fellow pilot an instant bond is formed.  We always have something to talk about.  I draw inspiration and motivation from the like-minded people in our aviation family.

Whether you fly because you enjoy the serenity, thrive on the challenge, or because of the other wonderful people in the “club”, I would argue there’s really not a bad reason to fly.  If you’re lucky enough, you probably even get paid to take to the sky.  So…why do you fly?

RAB Dwight