Precipitation is on my mind, as my friends in Texas, Louisiana, and yes, even California have recently been dealing with moisture from the sky. Some of them have been struggling with rain coming down in large quantities.
It happens, thank goodness. After all, rain gives life.
But rain also causes calamity and mayhem. Like so much of life, it’s all down to a matter of degrees. A little rain is good. A bit more is acceptable. A lot can lead to major problems.
Of course that’s true in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Into each life some rain must fall. I didn’t say that by the way. Not originally, anyway. That credit goes to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in a poem titled, “The Rainy Day,” first published in 1842.
Longfellow was a far more esteemed writer than I’ll ever be, of course. Certainly his books sell better than mine. Perhaps because he’s dead. I understand that’s a great asset to any artist’s sales potential. He wore a much more magnificent beard, too.
So you can trust him when he says a little rain will fall into your world. It will. It has. It will continue to do so. That’s life.
Then again, a bit of rain isn’t all bad. While visiting a spectacularly beautiful grass strip on the west coast of Florida the other day, the rain came down in buckets. Being at least a little cowardly about excessive moisture seeping into my eyes, and ears, not to mention its tendency to ruin the drape of my t-shirt, I hid out in an open T-hangar with a wonderful old gentleman who entertained me with story after story of his aviation exploits. It was a day well spent.
This is one of the great lessons I’ve learned about aviation. It’s one I never would have guessed when I had the perspective of an outsider, as I very much did for almost three decades of my life.
General aviation is an amazingly social endeavor. It’s the people who fascinate me far more than the machines. And that’s saying a lot, considering I find the machinery to be as intriguing as any tangible object I’ve ever encountered on earth.
When faced with a rainy day with low scud and high winds, I’ll happily seek shelter in a nearby hangar to swap stories with whomever I find there. The odds are good that who ever it is, they’ll bring real value to my time and real entertainment to my life.
It’s through general aviation that I’ve met Flying Tigers, including the legendary Tex Hill. I’ve had the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with Chuck Yeager, (an impossibility due to our height disparity, but I choose to remember it that way).
Fate put me in front of Arnold Spielberg for an entire day some years back. A radio man who was older than his fellow Burma Bridge Busters, he went on to work with computers in Arizona and raise a son who made some pretty darned popular movies.
Roscoe Brown of the Tuskegee Airmen may be the smartest man I’ve ever met in my life. His fellow officer from the 332nd Fighter Group, Hiram Mann, become a friend in his later years.
And there are so many others, from luminaries like Scott Crossfield to names you would never recognize, but I wish you could meet them all, too.
Yes it’s true, not everyone in aviation is famous. Often the most interesting people are the least boisterous and outspoken.
My buddy Dennis taught me to fly taildraggers in exchange for me teaching him how to play guitar. Ben taught me more about seaplanes in our first couple hours together than I thought possible. Andy knows more about engines than I’ll ever know, but he opens up his shop and lets me bang around and learn as I go, while Matt and Jim just flat out make me laugh.
Last names are immaterial in this case, because general aviation is full of Dennis’s and Ben’s, Andy’s, Matt’s, and Jim’s. If you’ve been hanging around the airport much you probably know people just as talented, just as enjoyable to spend time with, and just as professional even though they affect a casual air that belies their capabilities.
Of course rain can be metaphorical, too. It may be a health or work related issue that caused you to become rusty as you fell away from flying. Or perhaps it’s a financial matter that keeps a friend from getting started in the first place.
That’s okay. Those issues can be corrected for the most part. The flying club I belong to has at least three members who were as rusty as could be, but they’re current and logging PIC time again, thanks to the relationships we’ve built and the mutual support we offer each other.
We’ve got male and female students as young as 15 years old involved, too. And we’re starting to talk about creating a scholarship fund to sponsor non-pilot members in the future, in order to help them achieve their goals of becoming a part of the GA community.
Whatever form your rain may take, let it come. We’ve got a cure for the blues and the blahs in general aviation, and it almost always starts with someone being just bold enough to walk through the hangar door and ask if it’s okay if they take a look around. That’s a start. We can work with that.