Even if it’s just for a weekend, or even a single afternoon, the healing power of the freedom of flight is what saved my love for aviation. We’ve all been there, the point where flying goes from a passion to a profession. The point where you just get burnt
out. Burnt out on the schedule, the time away from home, the thousands of decisions that all go towards the ins and outs of what it means to be a professional aviator … I’ve hit that point many times in my career and can honestly say that it was an old retired pilot that mentored me that knew what to do. He took me up flying in his plane and said, “where do you want to go?” It was during those flights that I remembered what it felt like to own the skies; and it was after those flights that my love for aviation overpowered my current status as a professional pilot. I hope that some of you find that mentor or friend, and takeoff in that plane that saves your love of flying. I hope you take an afternoon to just go to a flying club, get an instructor and an old single engine with a radio that looks like it belongs in a museum, and a transponder that looks like it has been on 1200 for far too long and just go. I can’t think of a better way to remember what it felt like to just enjoy being a pilot and remember why you said you didn’t want to do anything else with your life.
As professional pilots, we often forget what it felt like to be brand new. We forget what it’s like to be rolling down the runway, after dreaming of getting to pull back on the yoke for yourself someday and feel the main gear leave the ground. What’s kept me seeing the world of aviation anew is passing on those words of wisdom and guidance to those that ask and are interested. Currently, there is a new generation of pilots going through their training that is constantly looking for advice and guidance. Whether they’re going through formal training through the military or civilian or building time and experience at their local flying club; someone somewhere is interested in what we do, and they may just be looking for you to pass on that tribal knowledge that could get them to the next step a little smarter than if they tried to figure it out on their own. Mentoring isn’t something that you have to search out, but now having read this, maybe you’ll get asked by an aspiring aviator for some advice, and recognize the opportunity to take them under your wing.
I sat next to a check airmen on my flight from Dallas to Salt Lake City the other day. Although we worked for different airlines, the industry and camaraderie right now are still the same no matter the logo on your cap. After a bit, he made mention that at his company, a lot of pilots are coming back from their Leaves Of Absence (LOA) and after not flying for 3, or even 6 months in some cases, that they’re experiencing a much higher rate of failures in their recurrent and re-qualification check rides. It was there that we both realized that flying is a tangible skill set, one that if you don’t work on constantly can quickly erode. It’s like being a professional bodybuilder and then one day being told to lay in bed for 6 months. Our competence in the cockpit is just like that bodybuilder's muscle mass, something that we constantly have to work on and maintain because that way is much easier than losing it and trying to regain to the levels we are today. I’ve started working on getting my instructor rating so that I can do just that, and maybe you can/will too during this time.
Although our jobs are mostly one on one with the pilot you’re flying next too, it’s safe to say that the aviation community is one of the most rare professional occupations in terms of how global, and diverse in scale it really is. I offer up this idea to connect to Airside from CAE and the global pilot community because flying is like medicine in that it’s not just a single avenue, and when we connect to each other we learn about all the different ways to fly. In the commercial world, many just think that it’s just the legacy commercial carriers that offer employment. Through experience, however, by connecting with the online community you can learn and be exposed to all the others such as flying Corporate, Cargo, Charter, Instruction and more. It is by connecting to the online community that maybe you can learn about an employment opportunity, or type of flying that you didn’t even know existed, and find intriguing and learn more. By getting trapped in our own echo chamber of experience we’re limiting our potential to do what we love. Communities like those here on Airside are great ways to get that point of view from 36,000 feet, rather than inside our own minds hanger.
Growing up with a legacy airline pilot as a father means it’s safe to say I've spent 35 years in the aviation industry in one form or another. Now that I am a legacy airline and military reserve pilot myself, is that I can look back on all this with a little bit of context, and here’s what I’ve seen. Just getting started as a professional pilot is always hard. After that, comes the cyclical cycle of complete upsets in the industry that happen every 6-8 years. In one career my father has experienced “B-scale” pay, the furloughs of the 90s, 9/11, 2008, mergers after mergers and now Covid. It’s the same if you fly for the military, deployments on top of training, on top of moving, on top of desk jobs… it always seems like there’s something going on; and truth be told, there is… but along with all of these ups and downs, setbacks and side steps, there’s the matter of fact that if you’re reading this then we have one thing in common, we love flying enough to figure out how to make it through the dark times. Thankfully with our colleagues, friends, family and more behind us, we will get through this knowing that it’s always darkest just before the dawn, and right now we’re all together in this cross country red-eye; but we will all be back, and better for it, in the long run.
welcome aboard the new airside
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