I cannot name the day when I first fell helplessly in love with flying. My parents must have somehow recognized my natural inclinations before I did, for their gifts of an aerobatic glider ride for my 16th birthday and my first flight lesson the following year exposed me to the virulent devotion that would define my initial education as a pilot. The pristine joy of directing my little airplane to leap into the brilliantly crisp air and quixotically soar as an ungainly metal raptor still haunts my most pleasant dreams. It was as if my very soul was released from it’s fleshy prison to leap jubilantly into the effervescent cosmos, surf the glowing tails of comets, and dance among the silently spinning galaxies.
But like any pearl of simple pleasure, it eventually became lost among the detritus and trappings of life. Not only is aviation an expensive pursuit, but it is further tarnished by demands of man. Oppressive regulations often favor monetary interests rather than the beleaguered pilot, who, at least initially, is so enamored with the joy of flying that a duty day of 14 hours and a starting salary well below the poverty level is foolishly and wholeheartedly accepted without question. Such a demanding schedule is also detrimental to the “normalcy” of having a family, and many pilots have sacrificed their dreams of a spouse and children at the altar of their career.
My passion was further dimmed by the neolithic beliefs unabashedly proclaimed by some of my male acquaintances about the proper place of a woman. A man with whom I worked once said that he would never ride in an aircraft with a woman in the cockpit. He even boasted of refusing a seat on a commercial airliner whose crew included a female copilot. My disbelief and shock at this sentiment grew exponentially upon discovering that there were even some male pilots who shared the belief that women were somehow subordinate to them in ability simply due to their gender.
Things such as these have weighed upon my love of flying in much the same way clear ice coats the wings of the unwary. And while I have since chosen another path, nothing will ever change the fact that my heart was first captured by the giddy sense of bright freedom offered by even the smallest of aircraft. I have been blessed with experiences and accomplishments in my short career as a pilot that reduce the petty chauvinistic attitudes and callous greed of others to puffs of lukewarm air beneath my wings.
I can fly. Never doubt that you can, too.