By GRANT BOYD
Why do you fly? If you have never been asked this, or asked yourself it, then you have quite a question to tackle.
I am sure that many pilots reasons are similar, but all of these aside, we can unanimously agree that flying is pretty cool.
I was exposed to aviation as a child by my father who had flown about 10 hours and dropped it right before his solo, but who has always remained passionate about flight.
But throughout most of my childhood, I was in denial. Yes, I actually denied that flying was cool. I mean, how could my dad be right? I “reluctantly” went to all the museums and airshows he took me to, but I pretended I wasn’t impressed.
But how could I not be impressed? When I was a freshman in high school, I finally admitted — to myself, as well as my dad — that he was right. I told him that I always thought he was right, but just didn’t want to admit it.
Thankfully he was quick to forgive me. Better than that, he drove me out to the airport on a particularly sweltering July day that changed my life.
We pulled up to a newly renovated hangar owned by the Aviation Explorers program. Inside were two planes, a Cherokee 180 and a Cessna 150.
“Whose planes are these?” I asked.
“Those are our planes,” said one of the instructors. “How else do you think you would be able to learn how to fly?”
Now I don’t know about you, but I think having two planes at your disposal is pretty neat to anyone, let alone a 14-year-old boy.
But it was what happened next that got me hooked for sure. I was able to ride shotgun in an orientation flight in the 180.
Later I was able to relate the experience of my first small airplane flight — and “flying” this plane with the instructor’s help — to a famous quote by Leonardo DaVinci: “For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk with your head turned skyward for there you have been and there you long to return.”
I believe that this simple quote epitomizes why we fly. We all may have our own specific reasons, but I think the desire to replicate the thrill of our first flight is what brings us back for more every time.
It certainly is what brought me back to the airport every week. As part of the Aviation Explorers program, we had to wash and wax airplanes every week. It’s hard work, but I have been privileged to wash some pretty cool airplanes.
After ground school and passing the written test, I began flight training in the 150. Come to find out you have to keep the ball centered? That and many other important facts were pounded into my head by my instructor, who was quick to show me that book knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into flying prowess.
We can skip the arduous 40 hours that we all had to go through. I am sure they were similar for all of us, except for the occasional funny story.
Fast forward to the final landing of my checkride: “Did I pass?” I nervously thought to myself after my 200th landing, which looked more like my second because to my nervousness.
“Well you landed it and we’re still alive, so I guess that you are a pilot now, Mr. Boyd,” the examiner said as I stuck out my sweaty, and trembling, hand to shake his.
Now being able to fly by yourself at 17 you feel like you own the world, but you’re quick to come back to your senses when you realize that you can’t afford to own the world, even though I was flying for $31 an hour wet.
So now we return to the original question: Why do you fly?
I have thought long and hard about this question and I think I know why I do. In short, I fly because it is cool. I suppose I could include the long answer as well, but that would include my vain teenager mind thinking that girls like flyboys (I hear some fighter pilots believe this too?), that it is something unique to do and, most importantly — how I put it into a college admission essay that I wrote about the joys of flying — you just never realize how beautiful the earth is until you’re half a mile up looking down at it all.