There is a very human trait that compels us to share the things we love with others that populate our lives.
This is especially true of family members, and of particular concern with children.
How often have you heard someone sigh, and with a shrug of resignation say something to the effect of, “My father was a lawyer and he wanted me to be a lawyer, so I became a lawyer.”
Success cannot be measured by the title we hold or the size of our income. That’s an important lesson some of us find difficult to incorporate into our lives.
Similarly elusive is the realization that respect is not a one-way street. Real respect has to be given to subordinates as well as to those in superior positions. That’s as true in the workplace as it is in the home.
It has been a conscious choice over the course of my life to influence my own kids in a positive way, through honesty, openness, and a willingness to encourage creativity. However, it has not been my practice to push them into the cockpit of an airplane, to write a book, or force them to play a musical instrument.
I’ve earned my living doing all those things, and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely, for the most part.
Yet it strikes me as counter-productive to try to push someone into a line of work, or a recreational endeavor, that carries as much risk of rejection and as much potential for fear as performing in public, publishing your deepest thoughts, or flying. The drive to go down those roads has to come from an internal source, not external pressure.
Consequently, none of my three children are pilots. I’m okay with that.
Because although none of them carries a pilot certificate, they all know how to fly. They have all taken the controls and guided an airplane from here to there.
Each of them is aware that aviation is open to them whenever they get the urge to get more deeply involved. They just haven’t completed that step yet.
Really, I’m perfectly okay with that.
All my children are successful in their own way. They’re independent and totally unique. They’re also pro-aviation. You might even say they’re aviation enthusiasts.My son flew with me for the first time when he was just 8 years old. His little face was dwarfed by my spare sunglasses, which were enormous on him. A pair of David Clarks encompassed his head as he craned his neck to see over the instrument panel. He flew me from Hartford, Connecticut, to Westerly, Rhode Island, and back again, as well as any primary student I’d ever worked with.
My daughters were a different story. Being female, I didn’t want them to be under the impression that I, a stereotypical middle aged white guy, was presenting them with aviation opportunities they couldn’t earn on their own. So they had to work a little harder than my son did. And they’ve loved it.
Nikki, the elder of the two, went to work for Waldo Wright’s Flying Service, a biplane operator of some note. Nikki flew with her boss in the New Standard, and took the controls of the Stearman. She also got the opportunity to fly a Waco VPF-7 a time or two.
Her adventures didn’t end there. Kermit Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight in Auburndale, Florida, took a shine to Nikki, inviting her to fly with him in his P-51D. At the other end of the performance spectrum, she took a ride off Kermit’s private grass strip in a Curtiss Headless Pusher. An airplane built in part, of bamboo.
Nikki wisely chose not to share her decision to fly in that particular airplane until she was back on the ground.
Madison is my youngest. She started flying at 10 years old, but not with me.
Instead, she negotiated a trade of services. She washed airplanes for a local designated examiner, then got a flight lesson in return. Janeen Kochan is the examiner. A retired airline captain who holds an A&P with IA privileges, Janeen is the kind of woman a young girl can look at to see her own aspirations reflected back at her. She’s also one of the kindest people I know.
Madison flew with Janeen in a Cessna 140, then she logged some seaplane time with Janeen’s husband, Dennis. He’s also a retired airline pilot and an active CFI.
Over time my youngest discovered what her older siblings already knew. Dad had no intention of pushing her into aviation, but he’d help make resources available if she wanted to pursue a life in the sky.
Now at 18, with high school behind her and a horizon of immense proportion ahead, Madison appears to be poised to take the leap and become a pilot. She’s thinking about an A&P ticket, too.
Maybe she’ll do it. Maybe she won’t. I really don’t know. But I’m very proud to have three sharp, capable kids who have made their own way in the world. The fact that they’re all aviation friendly and enthusiastic about supporting each other’s pursuits is all the assurance I need to know they’ve got a great shot at being successful in the long run.
Recently, Madison’s been talking about getting a job as a line service worker, or perhaps learning the basics of fabric work by re-covering a Stearman at our local airport.
She stopped over to the house last night, asking some very specific questions, while holding a Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test book in her hands. She’s apparently got a plan.
None of my three children are pilots – yet. And I’m still perfectly okay with that.
They’re hard-core aviation enthusiasts, and that’s good enough for me.