In which I muse on why I fly and my apparant lack of fear when flying.
Someday someone is going to ask me why I fly and while it’s tempting to answer “Well, why not?”, somehow I get the feeling that’s not the kind of answer they’d be looking for.
Why do I fly? It seems like a simple question but it’s actually pretty involved when you start thinking about it.
I stated in my first post on this blog that my desire to learn to fly came from flying commercially on holidays when I was about 6 years old. For some reason, which I still can’t explain, I’ve got this nutty phobia of oxygen masks. I don’t know where it came from or why but I have this weird fear of them. So I’ve always just assumed that my desire to learn to fly came from me working out that flying in a light aircraft is a way to fly without the ‘threat’ of cabin depressurization. And I’m sure that is a contributing factor, but I don’t think it’s the answer to the question.
Ever since I can remember I’ve always…known…that one day I would get a pilots licence. But you wouldn’t have known that unless I told you. I wasn’t the kind who went to airshows, I didn’t have posters of aircraft on my walls, I never had model aeroplanes – basically, I was the total opposite of one of those children who are aircraft nuts. I had no idea what flying really involved, no idea about aircraft, no idea about the science behind flying, I just knew that one day I wanted to do it.
Even now I’ve started on this dream, I still can’t really specify what it is that has made me addicted to flying. What is it that keeps me going back and spending ridiculous amounts of money and makes me think of it so often when I’m on the ground?
Maybe if they ever analysed and compared the brains of pilots and non-pilots they’d find some difference. There must be something that makes some people have that inner desire to just get off the ground and fly (and, no, I don’t think ‘insanity’ is the answer to that question!).
Perhaps it isn’t those who do want to fly and those who don’t, maybe it’s more there’s those who know they want to fly and try and those who don’t realise they want to fly until they try it and they never try it. Who knows.
So, after all this thinking, I still don’t know why I fly. Saying ‘because it’s freedom’ seems too dramatic, saying ‘because it’s fun’ seems too simplified. Maybe it’s something that isn’t meant to be quantified, perhaps it’s just something inside that’s there but can’t be put into words. Or perhaps other pilots know why they fly and it’s just me who can’t outline it.
The second part of this post is entitled “fearlessness”. I’m discovering that I don’t feel fear at all when I fly. I’ve heard other pilots say that they feel a healthy dose of fear everytime they fly and they’re always thankful to get back on the ground in one piece. I don’t feel that.
I’m not saying that I don’t realise the risks involved with flying, of course I do. I realise that there is a risk everytime I take off that something could happen, but I don’t think about that. I’m a safe pilot, don’t get me wrong. I take all the precautions to ensure that the flight is safe for me and everyone around me, but I still don’t go to the airport thinking ‘Well, I could die today’ or anything, the thought doesn’t even cross my mind.
When I’m up there, I’m not sitting there thinking about the risk. I am, of course, taking safety precuations like monitoring the engine and the aircraft response, watching for traffic etc – i.e. being a safe pilot.
When we do things like stalls and wing drops and steep turns, thing which some people may find a little uncomfortable, all I’m thinking is ‘this is fun!’. I get some sort of rush out of it I guess, which is pretty funny considering I’ve never exactly liked rollercoasters or anything like that. It’s mainly this fact which has led me to wonder if I’m slightly unusual in my way of thinking – if I’m ‘fearless’ when it comes to flying. I know that steep turns and stalls are hardly major aerobatics, but still.
It all seems slightly melodramatic now I’ve put it into words in this post, being ‘fearless’ – it makes me sound like some sort of storybook WWII Ace or something. Maybe I’m completely normal, perhaps it’s the ones who are worried about dying every lesson who are unusual, who knows. All I know for sure is how I react when I fly – although this could change when I finally try proper aeros, who knows!
I guess I just tend to approach it with more of a mindset of “Well, I’m going to try my best not to die but if I do, hey, it was a fun way to go!”