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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Two down, who knows how many to go

I got interested in flying when I was around 8 years old because of subLOGIC's imaginatively-named Flight Simulator II for the Commodore 64. The idea that I could take this virtual contraption and go where ever I wanted was amazing, even though I couldn't understand a single concept the manual (remember those?) talked about. "Navigation? What the heck is that?"

The program that got me into flying is at the middle left. I also loved Super Huey, which is at the middle right.
Nowadays, smartphone flight simulators have better graphics than FS 2.0 did, and I've seen PowerPoint presentations with better frame rates, but the science behind flying was fascinating. Even more appealing to me was the freedom to go anywhere in an airplane. I knew I wanted to do it someday, but all I wanted to be able to do was putter around the sky going places. I didn't even care where those places were: I just wanted a pilot's license and a town with a runway.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd end up flying in states from Montana to Florida and almost all of them in between. I certainly never thought I'd fly a jet. And yet here I am, having finished up my second type rating yesterday morning. Sometimes dreams you don't have end up being better than the ones you do have.

Sometimes when I'm writing, I'll have an idea I'm extremely excited about. It's so great it almost writes itself! It will be one of the best things I've ever written! All I have to do is sit down and write and... and... it, umm, well... It's not coming out like I thought it would. I mean, it's not bad and all, but that definitely is not as good now that it's on the page as I thought it was going to be. Maybe in my mind it was so good that there was no way it was going to be as good after going through the "writing wringer".

Then there are times when I find something mildly interesting, and since the blog doesn't just write itself, I need to pound something out for the week. About 90% of the time, when I'm done, I'm surprised about how good it ended up being. (The other 10% end up being thrown out. Blogging isn't as easy as it looks, people.) I just tried writing some simple thing and it really turned out a lot better than I thought it could have been! Many of those times, what I ended up writing about was totally different from what I had started writing about.

That's how aviation has ended up being. Flying was something I found interesting and wanted to do, but that's about it. I just wanted to get my private and fly when I had time away from my real job, whatever that was. Because my real job was definitely not going to be flying. Maybe I'd get an instrument rating along the way, but that's about it.

So I got my private pilot certificate, albeit years later. Then a while after that, I got my instrument rating. The instrument ticket was something to make flying more useful to me, but mainly because learning how to fly precisely enough to do instrument flying would make me a better pilot in general.

Then the commercial certificate came. Because that's the next step up, and it would make me a better pilot. And because aviation grows on you, so I was going to grow along with it.

Then the CFI. Because by then my real job was a little too "real".

Then the ATP. Because flying now was my real job. Although I'm still waiting for it to become a job. And waiting.

Now the jet.

And then what? How long is that list going to get? I don't know, and that's what I like about it. I'll get to learn something new sometime, though. That's a guarantee.

What I do know is that once you're a part of aviation, aviation becomes a part of you. It doesn't just grow on you; you also grow with it and because of it. It must be experienced to be understood, and once understand, it changes your experience.

If you have not had that experience, I hope you do soon. Next week, I'll talk about The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh's book about his experience crossing the Atlantic. See you next Wednesday!

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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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