Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday PSTSS: "Learning to Fly"

Living in Wichita, you get to know a lot of pilots. (Hey, it's the Air Capital of the World, as they say.) Many are test pilots for Lear or Boeing or Cessna or one of the other aerospace companies with have a large presence here, and a lot are former Air Force or other military that ended up in Wichita because they wanted a job that allowed them to continue to do the sort of thing and be around the sort of people they were comfortable with. And then quite a few are engineers and accountants and others that don't have any necessary connection with flying in their jobs...but, being surrounded by people captivated by the air, they can't resist it, and they go back to school and get some training, and soon they're hitting the runways.

My father got his pilot's license years ago, back when he owned and ran some restaurants around the western states (Frontier Pies--ever hear of them?) and needed to make a lot of (relatively) short trips on a regular basis; I think there was a bit of a mid-life crisis going on their as well. He spent about 10 years flying quite often before he gave it up. I don't think he was ever possessed by the mystique of it all, the wonder of using a machine to bring yourself up into the atmosphere. I wonder if I ever will be caught by it. Not that it's a hobby we could at all afford, but still, I wonder. I just took a youth group out to the airport where were taken on the flight simulators, and a member of our congregation talked about his own passion for flying, a passion he'd had since he was a kid and was discouraged from pursuing; he didn't turn around and make himself into a flight instructor until his thirties. And I've just learned that another fellow I know in his forties, I man with a good company, a wife who just finished training to be a nurse, and growing children, has just resigned his job and is off to Texas to learn how to be a commercial airline pilot. That's his dream, he said--and I can't deny that it's a good one.

For years, for some reason, I thought this Pink Floyd tune (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason) was by Lou Reed. I don't know why that got stuck in my head, but no matter; I eventually figured it out. It's a brilliant, introspective rock number from Floyd's immediate post-Roger Waters years. It's probably about more than just flying (new beginnings? the fragility of earth? sex?) but no matter; it works just fine to capture those enchanted by the dream of the open air.

Into the distance a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back.
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled.

A fatal attraction holding me fast
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I.

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings--I thought I thought of everything.
No navigator to find my way home
Unladened, empty, and turned to stone.

A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded, but determined to try.
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I.

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye.

A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.

There's no sensation to compare with this--
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Well, to that list you can add me. I spent the $7000 or so that it takes to get a Private Pilot Certificate, and have never regretted it.

Of course, with five kids and a big mortgage and car payment I can't afford the hobby any longer, not to mention the time sink that it is. But learning a difficult skill and doing something so few people do was its own reward. There are people who have paid a higher price for something, and gotten less benefit, I'm sure.

Someday I may parley that into the sort of respect your colleagues give, by actually completing a bachelor's degree...