Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An emergence of passion

     Among all of the reading that I have poured myself into since beginning the journey of aviation, there is one very common theme: perseverance. Except for the very lucky few, aviation is not a career, or hobby for that matter, that one just wakes up and gets fully involved with. There is a lot of hard work and perseverance that goes into doing aviation professionally. There is also a lot of hard work that goes into doing aviation well. 
     It all starts that same way, I'm pretty certain. You get that initial exposure. Maybe it's a Young Eagle's program flight. Maybe it's a family vacation that you go on your first airliner during. For some, it has been getting shuttled around in the service, for some television and movies. There are also a large faction that gotten bitten by the bug while looking up at the sky. 

     I was bitten by the bug while just a little boy. My father would bring me to the air port in Owls Head to look at the planes. This of course being Knox County Regional Airport (KRKD). Back then there was a little trailer, a hangar or two, and a wooden post fence that separated the parking lot from the tarmac. We used to watch the Beech 1900's from Colgan Air pull in. They captain and F/O would jump out and pull flight attendant, ground crew, and pilot duties all at once. They would greet the passengers, load the luggage in the aft hold, and take the tickets. 
     I barely remember this part of my own recollection, but the facts have been verified.  Dad and I loved to watch Thomas Watson Jr, president of IBM, former Air Corps pilot, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, fly his Bell helicopter. As I have said time and time again, things were different in aviation back then. You could stand at a fence and talk to a flight crew face to face. 

     The airport in Owls Head really had a way of pulling passion out of many over the years. Originally built as a U.S. Navy base during World Wart II, it was designed to teach carrier pilots about flying in bad weather; or so the rumor went as it was always fogged in. In all seriousness, it was home to many Allied country's pilots as well as U.S. pilots, many of whom married local women and came back after the war. All of those young men, plying their wartime trade, all had a touch of passion in them. Let's face it, for the time, it was like having Top Gun in your back yard. 

     This knowledge led me on a quest in eight grade to complete my research project on the topic of the naval air station. I learned a great deal during that time, and even had a chance to explore some of the remaining original government structures on the airport. I think there may now only be a utility building left. I know when I was flying, the maintenance garage was the old crash rescue station. 

      When it came time for me to do the actual flying, I was there in KRKD doing it. My head was stuck to the sky, my nose stuck in books, and my butt stuck in every empty seat of every flight possible. I sat in the back during some lessons and watched Ed instruct. I took notes, I listened, I watched. I figured it out. If I couldn't be the one flying that day, I'd damn sure learn something all the same. I didn't give up trying to learn new things. I kept pushing. 

      I had the great fortune to volunteer at the Transportation Museum during that time. It was an amazing experience for sure, but it wasn't necessarily the place to toss a teenage boy. My salvation came through the flying club and a man named Gary who was rebuilding a plane. I became enlisted in the task of grimy restoration work. It was hard sometimes, but I kept pushing...and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I learned a lot about air craft maintenance that kids my age wouldn't have dreamed of. (Nor cared about excepting a very few). 

       My solo date came and went. I tell people I soloed on my 16th birthday, but I didn't. I soloed the day after. We were socked in so tight that not even Penobscot Island Air had made a move in a day or two. Ed and I went around once and were on the instruments 75% of it. 

      Life and death got in the way of aviation, but little things over the years kept my head coming back in it. A trip here, a trinket there, that sort of thing. There is one thing that never went away for me though. I don't care if it is a wee baby Cessna 150 or a Boeing 767, watching someone takeoff still stirs something inside of my heart. The process of seeing something so large, so menacing even, hurtling down the runway, only to leap into the air like a big bird and head skyward, calls to my very soul. Just the excitement you get talking about aviation, or the prospect of seeing your favorite plane land, or flying in general, just being up there, that excitement doesn't go away, no matter how long you've been out of it. 

     The other morning while driving north bound on the turnipike while headed to work, I saw a Delta MD-88, it's black exhaust trailing behind it like streamers, clawing it's way into the pink morning sky in the icy 20 degree weather. While I knew there was a good chance the flight crew, at least the junior ones, weren't making much money at all, that moment I knew they were the richest people in the world. They were doing something they absolutely loved, while getting to look at a postcard beautiful scene, and there is nothing better that that. You can't buy happiness. 

       As I have found out as of late, happiness is about perseverance. In my personal experience, you can't get one without the other. So long as my passion remains in the forefront, I will continue to push forward on this journey...

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