Into each life a little rain must fall. That truism has been around for a lot longer than I have. And with good reason. It makes sense on multiple levels.
In the literal sense, rain will indeed fall. Even if you happen to live in the hot, dusty interior of the Sonora Desert, there will be rain. Literal rain. Water falling from the sky, screwing up your picnic plans, or washing the grime from your car’s windshield.
Literal rain can be a pain in the butt or a beneficial gift. It all depends on your circumstance at the time. When Louis Bleriot encountered a rain shower over the English Channel in 1909, the cooling effects of that precipitation kept his engine running for long enough to get his aircraft to the coast of England.
Had Louis not run into that shower, he very well might have plunked down in the cold waters of the Channel, which might lead him to consider that an entirely different kind of rain had fallen on his plans to complete a momentous journey from France to England by air.
Rain, as we use the term, can be either literal or figurative.
Rain is a nourishing element of nature that feeds life on our planet. That’s assuming a reasonable quantity of moisture has befallen you, of course. If it comes down in torrents for days, well then the results of the rain can be an entirely different story. Those tiny little raindrops can combine to create a rushing river with the power to sweep your house, and you, and everything you own into oblivion.
The same thing can happen to pilots. Just as importantly, it can happen to prospective pilots. They can certainly use our help and protection as much as anybody.
Here on the ground our protection from the rain comes in the form of an umbrella. I’ve got a doozy nearby, just in case. Because here in Florida, it rains. And it rains hard. Often with little warning.
Pilots know that rain in and of itself isn’t that big a deal. A light drizzle falling from stratus clouds isn’t the sort of weather phenomenon that is likely to cause any major difficulty. Usually.
Then again, if you’re flying an open cockpit airplane with a wooden propeller, that same light rain can result in hypothermia for the pilot and some potentially serious damage to the prop.
Given this perspective, it’s clear to see that we all need protection from the rain. An umbrella, or a slicker, or a pair of waterproof boots. That’s true whether the rain is literal or metaphorical.
But where can we find those metaphorical tools to shield us from the weather we’re guaranteed to encounter while engaged in a life filled with airborne adventure?
Education is the key, to be honest. The more we know, the safer we are. The safer we are, the more enjoyable our flights will be. The more we fly, the more diverse the experiences we’re exposed to. And so it is that education becomes even more critical to us.
Whether you’ve got two hours in your logbook, or 20,000, we all have something to learn. Fortunately, finding good, quality educational materials is easier than ever. That’s as true for the new student struggling with the task of learning how to navigate without the benefit of a GPS receiver in the aircraft, as it is for the experienced pilot who plans to fly a non-ADS-B equipped aircraft without breaking any rules that would raise the ire of ATC or the FAA.
As the inscription on Emil Faber’s famously situated statue so rightly says, “Knowledge is good.”
The Internet may be a great place to post pictures of cats, and your most recent lunch order, or a meme about your personal political views on the events of the day. But it’s also a remarkable tool for gathering specific information about how to do just about anything — including how to perform various tasks correctly in an aircraft.
You can learn how to make use of VFR Flight Following with videos and documentation you find online. Or, you can search out the pros and cons of a particular airplane type you’re thinking about buying. You can get up to speed on how folks used to navigate before GPS was invented or take a lesson in how to operate the various pieces of glass you may find in the panel of the airplane you’re going to be flying next week.
None of us is so smart that we don’t need to brush up on something or other now and then. And none of us is so advanced that we understand how to use the next digital marvel that shows up in the marketplace the first time we see it. Technologies change, processes change, new materials enter the airframe, engine design advances into new territory, and even the regulations we operate under are amended on a continuing basis.
None of us is immune to ignorance. The best of us recognize that and actively engage to correct our own deficiencies. The worst of us don’t. Which is why they become the worst of us.
Don’t be in that group. Accept that rain will fall. Get a good umbrella, or a rainproof jacket, and maybe an old-fashioned pair of galoshes. Then use them.
Because the best protection from the rain is absolutely worthless if we don’t make an effort to actually use it.