Under normal circumstances I’d be writing this column from the comfort of my home office. I probably wouldn’t be wearing closed toe shoes, or long pants, and I sure wouldn’t be wearing a sports jacket.
Instead I’m putting this little missive together at Gate 42 among a mass of random people gathered at Orlando International Airport. Shortly I’ll be moving to Row 20, Seat D, on a transport category aircraft, accompanied by a good number of these same folks who currently surround me.
Is this flying? I’m not at all sure it is.
Of the hundred some odd people on the airplane I’m preparing to board, only two will be doing anything that approximates flying. The rest of us will be doing our best to be compliant, complacent, and calm throughout our journey.
What we won’t be doing is participating in the aeronautical adventure in any meaningful way.
My fellow passengers and I will not be responsible for making any decisions more important than whether we stow our carry-ons in the overhead or beneath our seat. This is transportation, not flying.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a good thing. It’s relatively convenient. It represents a fairly economical use of our time as we travel from central Florida to Washington, D.C. And to be honest, it’s not all that expensive. But it isn’t flying. Nope. This is something else entirely.
Most of my fellow passengers will never know the joy of dancing on the pedals in an effort to follow the yellow line that leads from the hangar to the runway and back again. They’ll never glance down at the airspeed indicator, looking for it to indicate rotation speed. The joy of pulling back on the controls to point the nose skyward will never live in their present, or their memory.
I feel a little sorry for them. Don’t you?
By the time we became airborne, my most negative impressions had been validated. Nobody turned left for a quick peek at the front office upon entering the aircraft. Nobody seemed to care about what was about to happen at all. They’re all focused on the destination. They see the journey as meaningless.
How is that even possible?
As we zip along, five miles or more above the face of the earth, cruising at speeds that are almost unimaginable, virtually all the window shades are drawn. It’s a beautiful morning over the southeast. The sun is shining, a few puffy clouds hang low over the peninsula of Florida, and nobody but me seems to be the least bit interested.
The beaches of Florida gleam in the sun. The Atlantic Ocean laps at the shore, and it’s all plainly visible from my seat – until my seatmate pulls the shade announcing, “There’s nothing to see out there.”
Holy Myopia, Batman! What is an aviation enthusiast to do under difficult conditions like these?
If not for being recently inundated by literally thousands of people who have the exact opposite reaction to aeronautics, I’d be worried. But I’m not.
Because for all the folks who populate the general public and show almost no interest in aviation – even when they’re at that moment in an airplane – I know there is a movement afoot that’s bringing teenagers into the fold in big numbers.
There are folks looking to join flying clubs where they can enjoy the recreational aspects of aviation, even while they plan a vacation trip by air – at considerably lower altitudes and speeds than I experienced today.
Rusty Pilots are getting back in the air by the thousands, and new, interesting aircraft are popping up all over the landscape. Flight schools are beginning to up their game, get creative with tools available to them for training, and scholarships abound for those who could use a helping hand either at the start of their flying career, or farther along when they’re trying to add-on a rating or certificate.
And that’s to say nothing of the gizmos, gadgets, doo-dads, and thing-a-ma-bobs available to dress up those aircraft to be exactly what you want them to be.
If you are like me and find yourself standing in a long line of galactically bored individuals who are preparing to file onto a transport category aircraft where they will kill time while en route to some far-off destination, do not despair. There is a brighter story to be told – even if it’s a little less obvious.
While the passengers may be ignoring the two pilots in the front office, the pilots are having the time of their lives. They get to fly big iron, and most of those who get that chance just love it.
Many of them haven’t lost their affection for the lower end of aviation either. The places and machines where they learned to fly and honed their skills still resonate with them. And one or two of them actually live at an aviation community, fly behind piston powered propellers, and navigate by looking out the window just for the fun of it.
If we can assume that weird people do things that only a very small percentage of the population would ever do – then it’s possible to come to the conclusion that aviation and aviators are weird.
And I’m just fine with that. I may be out of step with the majority, but I’m fascinated by the view out my window from Row 20 on one of Boeing’s finest twin-engine transports.
So while there are more than 100 people on my flight who apparently couldn’t care less about what’s happening up here in the ether, I know there are two fellas up front who are pretty into it, and at least one guy back in steerage who’s enjoying the experience for all he’s worth.
Is this flying? It is in my world. Here’s hoping you get a big healthy dose of air under you soon, too.