Warm welcome to new Pilot!

As I walked off the 777 this past Wednesday I stared down at the relatively high message number on my phone.  What the heck, I’ll listen to a few as I walk down the terminal.  The weather was east coast hot, muggy and humid.  Not quite stifling and a lot like the cabin of my old Bonanza in summer (no A/C).   As I walked on to one of those weird 1960 bus-things at Dulles, I heard the giddy, adreneline-filled voice of a friend and colleague, “I just passed my check-ride.  CALL ME!!!”   I’m usually not that into public displays of cell phone conversations, but this one was worth the scorn and ridicule of my bus-mates, for a friend had just joined our small but passionate community:  D had just become an aviator.

My friend D had started his flying career 15 or 20 years ago and made it to solo before the demands of work and kids got in the way of completing the ticket.  He went on to a successful career in tech and the kids are (now) in high school age and beyond.  He and I frequent industry boondoggles (we both love fly-fishing) and I regularly arrive by my private (albeit piston) airplane.  (The other guys on these trips also arrive private, but often turbo-fan private, or at least PT-6 private).  I’d fly if I could, or sit up in the jump of the Falcons or PC12s drooling over the experience.  But always we’d find ourselves after a day of trout fishing sitting over the dinner table talking airplanes.  It was a common refrain from D: “Man, I really gotta get back in to flying.  How long do you think it would take me? I have this house up in Oregon, it would be great to fly there b/c it’s so hard to get there otherwise.  Do you think I could really swing it with our work schedules?”   Any of these questions sound familiar?  “Yes, yes and yes!!” I’d reply. Life’s short, carpe diem!

So he jumped in, and toiled for about a year.  D experienced all of the common and important rites of passage:  the hassle of renting from a club, the transient nature of instructors, missed flights due to business conflicts and weather.  But every time I spoke to him I became more encouraged because I recognized that something important had happened:  he had fallen back in love with flying.  Not the romance of the idea of flying but the actual love of flying.

The love of flying means that these many inconveniences, expenses and hassles of our hobby don’t just not bother us . . we actually love them.  I can honestly say that (family aside) some of the best memories I have of the past ten years are of staying in a humorously bad hotel in the mid-west on the eve of an aircraft pickup, flying ten hops to Tulsa (thanks Southwest for not telling me what ‘direct’ meant) only to get there and realize the C340 we were told was cherry was a DOG!, or drinking that third cup of coffee at SLC waiting for the snow to stop.  These weird moments create the unexpected and the serendipitous.  They remind us of things larger than ourselves (weather for example, or the nuances of thousands of pieces of metal slamming against each other at high altitudes and temperatures).  We love these weird moments because they are all part and parcel of the adventure of flying.  They are as memorable and as fun and rewarding as the greased landing because they are equally hard to achieve.  My life (like everyone’s) seems unusually busy with work, family, friends, and everything else . . when’s the last time you had time for a spare, unplanned hour in Tonopah or an overnight in Cheyenne?

So D loved flying again and worked really hard to get back on the horse.

Back to the people mover.   5 more messages to go, but the first one was about flying, and it was timely. . . Click.  Forget the rest of those messages.  Speed dial D.

He picked up on the first ring.  His voice was still the same adrenaline pitch of giddy.  “I did it!” he exclaimed.   “Oh man was it stressful! I tweaked my neck the night before and couldn’t sleep, then we got to the club and couldn’t find the logbooks. The Inspector was just about to leave then we found them.  Oh man I was more stressed for this than anything I’ve ever done.  I told the inspector that I was freaking out and he was really great.  He said, ‘Think of this as an audition for a play or an interview for a job. You know all of this.  Just show me what you know.’”  That sounded like a great way to think about it, I thought.  D went on, “I was still nervous.  But then something weird happened. I nailed the oral.  Then I got in the plane and flew the best flight I’ve ever flown. It all came together.  Soft field landing at RHV .. Greased! Short field. . . perfect.  Inspector mumbled something like, ‘Ok, you know what you’re doing here’.  It was not only satisfying, it was FUN!”

I chuckled because something very similar had happened to me for my private (lost logbooks and all).  And I could relate to the huge sense of accomplishment, relief and achievement that my friend was feeling at this moment.   “Enjoy this moment,” I said, “You deserve it!”. I then imparted the age old traditional wisdom of “licensed to learn” and we spoke for another 20 minutes or so about what was next:  immediate instrument training? transition to glass? long XCs? What was the best way to fly for the first year of flight?  (All good questions for a future post).

For now, congratulations D!  You have joined a wonderful community of adventure and friendship.  And thank you!  It was a joy to watch your adventure and relive so many memories of my own.

Let’s get flying!

Explore posts in the same categories: Adventures, Learning

2 Comments on “Warm welcome to new Pilot!”

  1. Dino Vendetti Says:

    Jon, Thank you for the encouragement and advice over the past year! It’s meant a lot…

    One thing Jon didn’t mention in his blog post was that I grew up in Alaska where several of my friends dads were bush pilots. I have so many memories of flying out to different lakes and rivers to camp or fish. It was just awesome, and since then I’ve always wanted to become a pilot, it just took me a few decades to get focused on it…

    But seriously and most importantly, what self respecting Alaskan fly fisherman isn’t a pilot, right? I mean, it just had to happen for so many reasons!

    D

  2. Jack Says:

    Congrats to Dino and thanks for the writeup Jon. It’s always nice to hear about a new pilot and the enthusiasm behind earning their license.


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