January 10, 2007
October 8, 2006
June 26, 2006
May 23, 2006
April 25, 2006
December 6, 2005
October 14, 2005
July 22, 2005
May 10, 2005
April 20, 2005
March 29, 2005
March 16, 2005
March 11, 2005
|March 1, 2007|
the April days passed and the deadline that my company had given me for moving
to a distant city came closer, I felt I was in a quandary. Pulling me toward
staying with my job on the road was the assurance of regular income to meet my
financial obligations. I had no illusions about the teaching game because as
much as I loved it, I knew it was terribly dependent on weather and other
factors out of my control. At the same time, I could not imagine my life without
flying, without my students, who had become almost like my children, and without
my friends at the airport. Was there, I wondered, a way to turn my hobby into a
real business and make my own employment? There had been no one in my family,
except for one maverick uncle, that had ever had their own business, so I was
without role models. If I accepted the dictum of my employers, I would leave
this lush and comfortable valley for a home in a far away city, a life on the
road, and no way to continue to run the airport. The flight school that I'd
worked hard to create would cease to exist, my students would scatter to the
winds and my life in the sky would be over.
As the days passed and I
struggled with the decision I would have to make, the rhythm of life at the
little airport became even sweeter to me, and it slowly dawned on me that I was
also feeling the rhythm of my own life, as it had become. What I'd experienced
here had been special and more real to me than the all of the days that I'd been
working at my 'real' job. I compared life on the road with that at the airport,
and pondered what life would be like if the road was all there was. Without
flying, I wondered, who would I be?
thinking that I might lose it, I begin to analyze my days since I came to
Buckhannon, to try to understand what made them so appealing to me. I knew that
the past year had been happy and fulfilling, but I'd never taken the time to
stop and think about what it was that made it so. It was time to figure that
I thought how I loved the beginning of my work days there, waking
only a few yards from the airplane that will soon bear me and the day's first
student aloft. These morning flights were gifts of the best the day had to
offer, and they had become etched in my memory until I could play them at will,
like an endless loop.
I hear the click of the magneto impulse in the
morning stillness as I pull the prop through to prime the engine. Then the
student's voice replies to my shouted command of "brakes and contact",
and I hear the bark and clatter of the little Continental coming to life and
proclaiming that the day is good and that shortly we'll be flying through the
best part of it.
I smell the delightful freshness of wet grass, borne
through the open window by the propeller as the engine warms, then feel the
slow, rocking progress of the taxi to the end of the grass runway.
cacophony of our takeoff shocks the slumbering cattle awake in the pasture next
to the runway and the airplane bounces gently on its oleos while the wheels
spray halos of dew. As the wings gain purchase in the cool air we enter the
element that our machine is made for and all of us, the airplane, the student
and I, become content.
In a climbing turn, we swing over hollows still
ladled with morning fog, then turn east into a sun just cresting the western
ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The still sleeping town passes below us as
we continue our way toward the practice area, through a sky so smooth that the
airplane lies perfectly still in the student's hand. The ground slows and
shrinks away as we climb slowly to the altitude where we'll do our maneuvers
These thoughts and dozens of others run through my mind
as it stages yet another match between age old enemies. Practicality and matters
of the heart battle to the death in my head until finally I know what I must do.
I call the company and give them my two weeks notice. I will cast my
fate to the relative wind, as it were, and give up salary, bonus, expense
account, company car, and benefits and become, struggling but happy, a full
time, self employed aviation operator, in the mold of the hundreds before me
that I had read about and admired.
The days drift by as I adjust to
my weekly schedule of seven day at the airport and I feel as if a weight has
been removed from my shoulders. I love not having to pack a bag and leave on yet
another road trip, and my instructing load increases exponentially as my
availability to teach becomes known to the students.
all of this, as happens sometimes when a defining moment occurs, one particular
instant stands out in my memory. It was June, some two months after my decision
to leave the security of the road and I was returning from a late afternoon
flight with a student. We had landed just at dusk on our 1600 foot sod strip,
and were slowly taxing up the freshly mowed swath of grass that led to the
hangar and office. The fireflies were popping their beacons of love and mist was
beginning to settle on the valley as we approached the hangar, when it hit me.
It was working. I was doing what my heart had told me to do, and it was working.
I was paying the bills and feeding myself, by working at what I loved.
At that moment an intensity of joy washed over me, which I have
seldom felt, before or since. I was home. I was home and it was so right.