By GRANT BOYD
The sign came quickly, and unexpectedly, as I pushed the beater of a truck down the pothole-abundant road of my hometown.
“Philip Billard Municipal Airport,” it read, as I was awoken from the almost subconscious Sunday drive that I was on.
As my tires crossed the property line of the airport in Topeka, Kansas, just like they did about every weekend for the two years that I trained for my pilot’s license during high school, I thought to myself the same question that I had posed to my 15-year-old self: “Is this what I want to pursue?”
During that time of Friday night football games and adolescent heartbreak, there were plenty of other distractions that I could have pursued, yet something still drove me to the airport every Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) morning.
In the end, my love for the sky led me to “overcoming” the call of other less-academic pastimes and I earned my private pilot certificate, which provided an amazing sense of accomplishment and has helped in the pursuit of other goals.
Now nearing the completion of college, I have a similar aviation decision — whether to pursue a career in the aviation industry (where I have some comfort level) or to try making a living in a “new” industry.
In short, do I follow my passion or try new things while I am young, something that even my flying mentors recommend?
Entering airport property always seems to rationalize my thought process. I am not sure if it is the slow hum coming from a piston engine or the smell that comes from a 100LL-coupled breeze, but it has always helped me to think.
On this day, I was at the airport to ponder, as my unplanned drive had led me there to do.
My mind, and hands, took me to my home field knowing that I needed to remember my “why.”
Why did I follow through with getting my license four years ago? Why did I decide to go to school in the Air Capital of the World and intern at aviation companies to get my foot in the door? Why would I ever want to leave my passion and go to another industry?
The allure of stocks or real estate looked a lot less bright when compared to the airport “dog,” doused in mid-day Kansas sun. After seeing that flakingly-painted Twin Cessna shining, I immediately knew my answer to the last question.
I realized that I never want to leave my passion by working in another industry. Though other industries may hold aspects that sound “cool,” aviation will always be cooler.
Now that I don’t have to worry about doing anything else, I am able to shift my focus towards others in different, but very similar situations. I know people — more than I want to — who have left aviation (either as a hobby or professionally).
Whether it was right before their first solo, checkride, promotion, or what have you, many have regretted it.
I hate to see these pilots leave, stemming from a variety of thoughts, and I hope that my story of remembrance can help at least one confused pilot think about their decision more thoroughly.
If you ever stop and think to yourself, “is this still what I want to pursue?” for whatever reason, try and remember your “why.” Think about how aviation made you feel when you started and what made you feel that way.
Was it watching, as an awkward teenager at an airshow, the Air Force captain walking away from his F-16 with confident strides that are rivaled by few in the world? Was it the flight that you took with your grandpa in his J-3, back when you were a toddler?
Or was it just seeing pictures of airplanes and thinking, “there has to be more to life than being ground-bound?”
The small-town airport (or any airport, plane, or fellow pilot) is my “why” and I just had to come back to it, to transform my thoughts into rational ones and decide what I want out of my future.
Aviation has always made me feel at home — and it will continue to do that for as long as I work and play within the industry.
If you ever question yourself and your decisions, attempt to remember the “why” for your love of aviation.
In certain career or hobby decision-making situations, this is the best way to ensure you keep working towards your goals and dreams.
If, for some reason, you can’t remember the reason you ever dreamt of mastering flight and dedicating your time, money, and tears to the industry, take a drive to the airport. As soon as you cross onto airport property, you may just remember.