“Why would you want to fly?”
When I tell folks that at age 45 I’m a new student pilot, I get asked this question. My response is always simple and probably just as vague, “Why wouldn’t I want to fly?”
The more appropriate question in my response should probably be, “Why did I wait so long?”
I am the son of a private pilot. Not only am I the son of a private pilot, I am the grandson of a private pilot. Both my grandfather and my father were avid aviators. My grandfather learned to fly in the 1940s, my Dad learned to fly in the late 1970s. Both built a couple of homebuilts. As a teenager, many of my good weather weekends in Upstate New York were spent flying with my dad. My first flight in a private airplane was at age four. (My lunch didn’t agree with that first flight, the one and only time I have ever gotten sick in an airplane). Several of my birthday parties took place at a private airport with the other kids who had one or more pilots as parents. Like my dad and my grandfather, I guess I have aviation fuel in my blood.
So why did I wait so long? I guess there were a number of reasons, or rather, excuses. I needed to have my career in order so I would have the financial horsepower necessary. I paid too much attention to media hype about the “dangers” of general aviation, especially after 9/11. I didn’t feel that I was “model” general aviator material (I’m full blooded geek, I have a husband instead of a wife, etc.). I didn’t know if I had the confidence in myself to become a pilot.
But man did I want to fly. I knew I wanted to fly. I could easily see me sitting in the left seat of a single-engine airplane and flying off somewhere, even if it was just taking my beloved to an airport an hour away to enjoy a lunch together and then flying back home.
And then a couple of things happened in my life. My dad was killed doing what he absolutely loved the most in December 2011 during the second flight of his second homebuilt. Invited to a picnic with his pilot club brothers and sisters the following summer, I went for a ride in a Piper Vagabond. It was the first time I had been in a small airplane in several years. I couldn’t help from grinning ear to ear as we took off from the small municipal airport and basically just went around the pattern a couple of times due to the weather that was rapidly approaching from the west. The following summer we went to Oshkosh for the Memorial Wall ceremony. The night before, as we approached the field and I saw all the airplanes coming in and out Wittman Regional Airport, I had tears in my eyes. Not because I was missing my dad, but because I knew I had to fly and since Dad wasn’t around anymore, the only way I was going to do it was if I flew myself. I knew that I wanted to and at that moment, for the first time in my life, I knew I could do it. Returning from a business trip on Delta Airlines cemented the deal; as we were landing the pilot of the regional jet had to do two go-arounds due to surface winds. While others were fearful, I thought that experience was awesome. I am way too old to become a commercial pilot for an airline, but you’re never too old to become a private pilot.
I made the call, set up my orientation flight with my flight instructor, Chuck, and after that first flight on November 30, 2013 in the 1966 Piper Cherokee 140, I was hooked. I knew I was finally going to become the pilot I dreamed to be.
“Why would you want to fly?”
Because I want to. Because I can. Because I will.
I’m currently 7.3 hours into my flight training. Learning to fly in Upstate New York in the middle of the winter is a challenge, but these weather conditions are temporary. The experience is permanent.
I hope to share my aviation experiences here on flyMachias*. Thanks for coming along and enjoy the flight with me.
Someday I’ll explain the motivation for ‘flyMachias’.