In my own self-aggrandizing way, I often mention how long I've been in the flying business, how many hours I have logged, how good I am...the whole bit. I am a pilot and am quite proud of it. And I'm not ashamed to let you know, either! But flying is what I do; it's my chosen profession, my career. You should be proud of what you do, and you should strive to be the best at it, whatever the field.
As jaded as I sometimes get about my career, I never get that way about flying. I love to fly - in any kind of aircraft, it does not matter. Sometimes I'll go up to the airport just to hang out. Oh, I pretend that I'm there to "wash the helicopter" or the admittedly flimsy "check on the ship" but the reality is that I just enjoy being around airports and airplanes and airplane people. I love people who love to fly. There is a...I don't know, just "something" about them. I could use a hackneyed cliche like "a soaring spirit" and that comes pretty close. Pilots generally are not depressed, suicidal people. On the contrary, they're usually boisterous, happy, "up" kind of folks. We know what we do - we're very self-aware. And we acknowledge that we are privileged to see the planet on a regular basis in a way that very few others do.
I've written about all of this before - I'm getting repetitive. The reason I bring it all up again is because it's always fun for me to look at flying through the eyes of those who are not as old and experienced and seen-it-all jaded as I.
We share our hangar with a guy named Dofin Fritts who builds and sells an aircraft called the RAF2000 gyroplane. It's a cross between a helicopter and an airplane. It has a "conventional" engine and propellor to provide the thrust to move the thing forward. As that happens, air flowing through the rotor causes it to spin ("autorotation" is what we call it). As the blades rotate they somehow...magic?...produce more lift than the energy it takes to spin them and the aircraft flies. Since the rotor is not powered by any means other than the wind, the gyroplane cannot hover. But it can fly very, very slowly and is just as maneuverable as a helicopter, for whatever that's worth. And for some people it is worth quite a lot. They are also relatively inexpensive to own and operate compared to "real" helicopters and even airplanes.
Dofin's students are often people with no other aviation experience. They ooh and ahh over my helicopter (it is pretty snazzy, even for a "lowly" Bell JetRanger), and they talk about their aviation dreams. It is quite inspiring to from people who are not yet pilots but want it so badly. It makes me smile on the inside and outside, bringing me back to when I was at that stage of the game, when all I could think about was getting in the air and learning how to do this thing.
There is a guy who runs the Brewton Airport on weekends. His name is Jeff Youngblood. His real job is in law enforcement, but he is an unabashed airplane nut, and spends much of his spare time (too much of it, probably) at the airport. Like many, his entry into aviation was full of fits and starts - it's hard to commit the time, energy and funds that it takes to learn this properly. But he's done it, of which he can be very proud. As a hobby, he buys and sells airplanes, so far profitably (at least, he hasn't lost money on one yet). In this way he can always own and fly an airplane, even if it is only temporarily. Not a bad idea! Needless to say, he wants to pursue flying commercially. And I mean, what pilot wouldn't want to get paid to do this?
We've got a lot in common, Jeff and I. Being in law enforcement he's already fond of guns, as am I. He's also a motorcyclist, which is always a plus in my book. And he currently (if only temporarily) owns an absolutely gorgeous Cessna 150, like the one I owned only nicer (...the one I owned and NEVER SHOULD HAVE SOLD, by the way). We're scheduled to go flying together this weekend. I've flown in a bunch of airplanes recently, but it's been a long time since I've actually touched the controls of one. If Jeff'll let me, I'll try not to embarass myself too badly.
Jeff has started his own blog called "FixedWingFlying." He is a surprisingly good writer. His perspective on flying at this point is that of someone just coming into the career. His stories are full of the joy we all feel when we're "up there"...the joy that some of us tend to forget over time.
I hope Jeff keeps his blog up. The path to being a professional pilot is full of adventure and fun. And I anticipate hearing the tales he has to tell along the way. I hope you will too.