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Winging It! With Dr. Paul


Well, the rains have abated, the waters are subsiding, and these flights of fancy are drawing to a close. Of course, no landing is completed 'til the wheels are in the chocks and the tail tied down. I thought we might chat, just a bit, while we're swinging the hangar door and scribbling in the logbook.

If you're a pilot, you have stories of your own to tell, and I want to hear them. Catch me at Hangar B6, Frazier Lake Airpark, Hollister CA, some summer Sunday when the sky sparkles. It's 2500 feet of sod on Runway Two Three, right traffic, pattern altitude 1150, Unicom 122.8. The 3000 foot water runway parallels, just to the South. Or look me up in the blue tent under the wing, Memorial Weekend at Watsonville. Or over pancake breakfast at Columbia on Father's Day. Every third August, you'll find me at Oshkosh, augustly hanging around homebuilt haven. Join me, please, because your reality will surpass my finest fantasy.

If you don't yet fly, and you've read this far, you're halfway there. Forty hours of instruction will go by quicker than these forty tales. You have only to begin.

Dick Bach used to write that if you hold an idea in your thoughts long enough, it will bring itself to pass. But there's more to it than that; first, you have to give yourself permission. When we let real world responsibilities interfere with who we are, we short change ourselves and those around us.

I've been there, grounded of my own accord, a long, dull, dry ten year hiatus. When I left the Air Force, married, had children, returned to school on the G. I. Bill, the sky became a distant memory. I'll fly again, I told myself, when I can afford to. Right now there are more important things. Air Force burned me out, I told my family, I never want to see another plane again. I doubt that they believed me.

Then Jack came to work for me. I was running a small electronics company, and Jack was my star technician. I didn't pay him much, but every Friday he'd take his meager earnings down to Reid-Hillview Airport, for another flying lesson. I'll fly again, some day, when I can afford to, I told myself, while Jack completed his rating.

The irony of it all was slow to dawn on me. How came I, successful big-time captain of industry, to be chained to a desk, unable to afford flight, while my lowest paid employee was discovering the wonders of the sky? Priorities, that's how! Suddenly I sensed that if I waited until I could afford to fly, I'd be bound to the ground forever. Upon coming to that realization, the funds somehow appeared. I had only to give myself permission.

Once you've accepted who you are and the life you were meant to live, ought not the fates and furies conspire to mold you and the world around you? Horrors, that smacks of predestination!

No, I reject the notion; it robs us of our free will. The very thought borders on the religious, which thank God I've avoided. I'll never be a slave to superstition, knock wood. Am I not still the Captain of my soul? I loved Gann's book, but I can't quite believe in fate.

Perhaps I wasn't meant to . . .

There, we're done. Gust lock's on, tail's into the wind, mains choked and chains checked. It's OK to give the spinner a loving pat, on your way out to the car.

Thanks for flying with me. We'll do it again soon. Drive careful now, and may all roads lead to the airport.

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this page last updated 14 June 2007
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