Pilot in Hibernation

A few weeks ago I flew the Mooney from my home base in New Jersey to South Carolina. My father, a renowned aircraft mechanic currently working for Boeing, will spend the next several weeks completing the annual. At the same time, my partner in the aircraft and I decided to get the engine overhauled and the interior refurbished. It’s a huge project!

First, we bought the airplane last year with this work in mind. The engine was at about 1650 hours SFRM (since factory remanufacture), with a recommended time between overhaul (TBO) of 1800 hours. The interior, while functional, was not very comfortable and not at all fashionable. We negotiated the price of the aircraft down to reflect the need to take care of these two major issues.
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Heavy Iron

Vapor Maker by Angelo Bufalino (TheProparazzi)) on 500px.com
Vapor Maker by Angelo Bufalino

I wonder how many people on that airplane take flying for granted. How many people are sitting there right at that moment worrying about the stresses at work or at home, or absent-mindedly reading the junky, germy magazines and catalogs in the seat pocket in front of them. Maybe they are being absent-minded on purpose, because flying scares them a little bit, deep down.

I think with everything else going on in our lives we can easily take flying for granted. “Going to the airport” anymore is fraught with struggles. Sometimes we might struggle to get out the door with the family-in-tow, or struggle to get through traffic, and parked, and to the correct terminal, and through the check-in line. And then comes security–another post all in itself. They tell us to get to the airport at least 2 hours early, but every time I do, I end up waiting in an uncomfortable airport chair for 90+ minutes before boarding the airplane. The furniture is bad, the people are everywhere, the snacks are expensive, and the entertainment is slim. “I just want to be there already,” we think.

Finally when we’re allowed on the airplane we have to stand there while people take their sweet time trying to jam a too-large carry-on in the overhead compartment, then take off their coat–while still in the aisle–before taking their seat. Only to find that the person waiting right behind them actually has the window seat in that row. And when you finally find your seat there is a 2 year-old sitting behind you. And he’s whiny. And on and on and on.

Remember the first sentence of this post? I guess it’s no wonder so many people probably take flying for granted. The whole process can be one of the most stressful, aggravating experiences in daily life. But let’s not forget just how miraculous it is to be flying. Just how far we’ve come in a little over 100 years. Look at that picture above. Those are two of the most powerful engines ever created, each generating near 100,000 pounds of thrust. Look at the wings, with the vapor clouds–tell-tale signs of lift–being generated as the airfoil creates a large enough area of low pressure on top of the wing to pull the half-million pound weight of the airplane into the sky. In the fuselage there are a few hundred people who, in about 9 hours’ time will step off the airplane on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

These machines are amazing technological achievements. Let’s try not to let all the rest of the things we encounter while “going to the airport” get in the way.