There are days when I really feel for those who’ve never had a taste of the Good Life. That is, the world of general aviation. The things they’re missing out on!
You might not know it from the way most airfields are ensconced by ominous chain link, barbed wire, and signage screaming of long prison sentences for trespassing, but some of the sweetest experiences are on the other side of that boundary. And I’m not even talking about the actual flying.
No, this is about the people. Folks who, if they work at the airport, probably go there on their day off as well just because they love it so much. Even when they don’t, their thoughts wander back to that place.
There are individuals who will work two and three jobs, laboring, scrimping, saving their whole lives to afford an airplane and then, just for the honor of helping another aviator, will toil in the summer heat or bitter cold to take pieces off their own aircraft and happily give them to a total stranger so he or she can get back in the air.
These people think nothing of giving that same stranger the combination to their hangar, the keys to their truck, and just as often provide food, lodging, or even a flight home. And strangest of all, those who give and give and give will feel that they were actually the fortunate ones! Because really, a fellow aviator is not a stranger but a sibling, a kindred spirit who shares a love of the sky. Put two pilots in a room and they’ll never run out of things to talk about.
General aviation pilots have literally flown around the world on the kindness of strangers. Don’t you wish we had just a bit more of that in our everyday lives?
I’ve only been in the game about fifteen years but I’ve already experienced all those things, and more. Sure, economic and regulatory burdens are downsizing our little world at an alarming pace, but that heart and soul is still present.
I’ve experienced GA from the other side, too. Many of my cherished moments revolve around providing someone with their first flight (and on a few occasions, their last) in a light aircraft. Or transporting them for medical treatment for Angel Flight.
This little girl was one that I will always remember. Ashley had a serious illness of some sort and I was honored to bring her to Southern California for treatment on an Angel Flight. How amazed she was at the sights and sounds of flying, especially when I invited her to fly for a while from the right seat!
It was a transformative experience, because for a short time she was no longer the same sick girl that had boarded the aircraft. For the rest of the journey, she was on the controls, watching every move I made. All the way through the landing, in fact, taking in the full measure of the experience even though she was too short to even see over the glareshield.
You see, flying is like that.
This video reminded me of Ashley: