It seems I’ve got a bit of an oil pressure problem. The temperature looks good, but the pressure on engine number 1, the engine that sits behind my left shoulder, is running significantly lower than it should. Lower than the rock solid 50 psi on engine number 2, that’s for sure.
Having two engines means having twice as many opportunities for a glitch, or a breakdown, or an expensive repair.
Yet regular readers know my attachment to the AirCam I fly is far deeper than I might have for any random airplane. This particular airplane is my only real connection to my dad, a man I barely knew and rarely connected with for more than a brief time.
It’s ironic perhaps, but my connection to aviation is also my connection to some of the most important relationships in my life. The act of flying and all its incumbent parts are inextricably connected to the thing that has become me. Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t be more satisfied with that outcome.
After my last flight I found the low oil pressure light blinking at me as I taxied from the active to the hangar. That’s not great, so I sent an email, made a phone call, and had a couple face-to-face conversations with friends who have knowledge of such things. It turns out I don’t really have an oil pressure problem. I have an oil pressure sender unit that’s on the fritz.
All in all, that’s not such a big deal. It’s a quick, easy, inexpensive fix.
In the end, I expected to find a resolution. What I didn’t expect to find in all this detective work was an epiphany of sorts. An impression, an idea if you will, that’s of real value.
At least it’s of real value to me. In fact, it gives me a sense of warmth and belonging and an appreciation for doing what I do, where I do it, and the folks I do it with.
When I talk to people who want to get involved in aviation as a profession, I often make it a point to recommend they think of the lifestyle their role in this industry might provide them. Because unlike most professions, aviation creates a means of being that is difficult to escape. Whether that is a satisfying experience or not depends largely on whether you were driven into it, or lured into it.
The distinction matters.
But of course, most pilots are hobbyists not professionals. And like most pilots, I started out as a dedicated hobbyist. I had no intention of becoming a professional pilot, or a mechanic, or an instructor, or a writer on topics of aeronautical interest, or a public speaker. Yet I did those things, and I continue to do them.
This has all been accidental, incidentally. This life is far removed from the one I set out to live.
Yet, I found the lifestyle that fits me best. It came with a career I truly enjoy. For me, it’s the ultimate package deal. General aviation suits me.
When people ask about the work I do, I often joke that what I do professionally is indistinguishable from screwing around — at least to the average Jane or Joe on the street. It’s true though.
I write a story or two every week. I go to the airport and tinker with an airplane, or fly just for the fun of it, or because it gets me where I’m going faster than my Prius could by traveling surface roads.
I talk to kids, I talk to old dudes, I wave my arms and try to make my audience laugh as I present long, educational programs to a rooms full of people who are thinking about getting back into the cockpit. I meet with individuals and groups to walk them through the process of establishing a non-profit company known as a flying club.
Oh, yes, and I get to take total strangers flying for the first time — often making a friend in the process.
It hardly seems like a job. It seems more like a hobby that went out of control. And in a very real sense, it is. But it’s not all pilot’s lounges and peanut butter crackers. There’s some effort involved if you’re going to be successful at anything. The same is true here.
It’s not at all uncommon for my peers and me to work a 16-hour day. Those of us who do what I do work all five weekdays, then top that off with work-related tasks on at least one weekend day, if not both.
Free time is rare and fleeting. Chores may begin to stack up at home. Family time is often combined with work tasks — a not entirely satisfying experience, but one that I appreciate having the flexibility to delve into.
Aviation as a profession is a lifestyle, not a simple punch-the-clock type of job. If you’re not willing to put in extra effort now and then, if you need to be done at 5 p.m. on a daily basis, if you don’t want to get a phone call during dinner from someone who really needs your help, then this probably isn’t the life for you.
On the other hand, if you enjoy the autonomy of being left to your own devices more often than not, if you warm to the sense of respect total strangers give you just for doing what you do, if you’d like to meet and interact with absolutely fascinating people on a regular basis, and if you might enjoy spending part of your days and nights sitting high above the earth, watching the landscape slide beneath you, and the realization that your life, your future, and your destiny are almost entirely within your grasp at every moment — well then, aviation might be just the thing.
It has been for me. And for that I am truly thankful.