By lex, on March 30th, 2008
Four years stood between my last flight in a Navy jet and my first flights as the employee of a tour company flying bug smashers. In the interval I had gotten out of the long accustomed habit of checking the weather. Not observing it or remarking upon it, but checking it. A professional pilot tends to regard his time on the ground as a regrettable but necessary interlude between his aerial pilgrimages. The sky being his home, he examines it carefully for portents – not in the way one looks to see whether it would be a rain coat day or sunscreen day, but in the way one evaluates existential issues of possibility and potentiality. The heart of an aviator leaps to a clear blue sky, sighs in resignation to the imposing presence of a thunderstorm, carefully weighs and balances everything in between against his personal capabilities and the limitations of his craft. Between the difficult necessary and the necessarily impossible are no clear dividing lines. On the palettes of judgment and storms, there are many shades of gray.
So I woke up early this morning, peered out through the blinds and viewed the sky with a frown. All was impenetrably gray – not dark, but not light. And today I had contracted with Son Number One to go flying.
We’ve flown together before, once. When he was younger, and when trust came free. His mother blessed our intentions with a smile and a warning: Precious cargo, she said. Bring him home.
By mid-morning the clouds were breaking, even while the winds kicked up. He arrived past noon and together we drove to the airport. It was supposed to be a lark, just a chance to go flying, father and son. But he wants to go to flight school when it’s all said and done, and for my own part I would throw him the torch if I could, impart what I can. I would ease his way if it was possible and every little bit helps. So our conversation was perhaps more pedagogical than paternal. We spoke of g required for level flight as a function of the secant of the bank angle. We spoke of the effects of prop wash, torque and p-factor. Right rudder on the climb out. Left rudder in the descent. Easing back stick on the turn reversal. Powering out of the power-off stall, with just a little bit of forward stick pressure to ease the angle of attack. Visual navigation. Just looking around outside. Following the small motions on the stick and rudders as we made our approach to land in gusty winds.
A little thing, and over quickly. Less than an hour and himself smiling at the end of it. Which is all that counts.
But there is so much more that I would teach.
Someone else’s task. It’s a matter of trust.