Waht’s your motivation?

What’s your motivation when it comes to flying?

Do you fly because it’s something you enjoy? Do you fly because you are building your hours to get a better paying job? If you have a career in aviation, the answer to both of those questions is probably yes. When you lose that motivation it is difficult to go to work in the morning.

Recently I’ve met several people who have left aviation careers. One of them is a former airline pilot. Over coffee he told me about the airlines he worked for, the layoffs, and the broken marriages aviation brought him. Now he’s a real estate agent and hates everything to do with flying. Another acquaintance left a job as an aviation mechanic to be a prison guard because, as he says, “There will never be a downturn in the criminal justice industry because there will always be bad guys.” He likes the stability and the money.

Flying is, and I hope will always be, a passion for me. It’s hard to explain that to someone who sees it as only a job.

Those who see it as a job will pass in and out of your life with blinding speed, at least at the instructor pilot level. One minute you see each other once a week at the airport, the next they are a disembodied email address and a Christmas card.

Others are lucky enough to make a good living that allows them to pursue aviation as a hobby. You know the type — during the week he’s a stockbroker and she’s an attorney, then on the weekend they become (insert dramatic music here) THE COUPLE THAT FLIES!

These folks plan their vacations around fly-ins and long trips to destination resorts. They work to live, live to fly. They tend to have the best camp sites at the air shows and fly-ins. They don’t hang it up until finances or health force them to quit, and then they do so reluctantly.

Sometimes fate pulls you out of flying suddenly and temporarily.

“One minute you are healthy and the next…,” said Jim Connor, a friend and coworker who recently broke both arms in a fall on the ramp. He’s going to spend the next six weeks on the ground. He’s lucky in that his wife, Jan, is a nurse so he has someone to help him at home. The gang at the flight school put together a get well soon package that contained multiple DVDs and reading material. I sent along a “Hogan’s Heroes” tape because he told me that he remembered when the show was in its original run.

I am extra sympathetic to his plight because last summer a martial arts accident put my left arm in a soft cast and a sling for several weeks. I was wearing protective gear but the phrase, “Come on Meg, you can hit harder than that,” did me in. I hope he is a better patient than I am.

The fact he got hurt scares me. He’s a big sturdy man — well over 6 feet tall and 250-plus pounds. I am well acquainted with his size because during an exercise in charter class I had to carry him out of an airplane when he became “incapacitated” after a crash. We joked that my throwing him over my shoulder and snarling and grunting as I hauled him out of the airplane was, in primitive cultures, nothing short of a mating ritual. He declared that we would be considered legally married in certain parts of the world that you read about in “National Geographic.” He solemnly informed me that a legal divorce would involve the sacrifice of a goat on the ramp during a full moon and the application of ritualistic tattoos. There was a mention of cobra venom.

I asked if a conciliatory lunch at Denny’s would serve as an annulment. I offered to pay.

Later, when we taught a ground school together he introduced me as “Xena, Warrior Princess” and – completely straight-faced — told the class I have many skills, not least of which was using a mechanical E6-B like a chakram, the signature weapon of Xena.

When we talked recently he joked that he was going to tell people that he’d gotten hurt when he picked a fight with me. I roared with laughter at his suggestion.

Get well soon, Jim. The airport isn’t the same without you.

Meg Godlewski is GAN’s staff reporter and a Master CFI

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