I've Always Wanted to Fly
Relaying the experience of learning to fly and the desire to fly, so often possess multiple beginnings. I could never tell you the exact age when I knew that I wanted to fly but I can tell you when I first dreamed of learning to fly........
..... I was twelve years old and had just received a flying model Cessna 172 Skyhawk. It was one of those planes that was neither radio control or tethered in any manner, rather it had a cam that fit inside its’ body that allowed it to fly various pre-programmed routes. Inside the box with the plane was a Cessna Flying Center ‘Learn-to-Fly’ certificate ($25 for an introductory lesson). I was somewhat disheartened to learn that I would need to be at least sixteen years old to begin flight training. Still, I held on to that certificate and kept it in my dresser drawer for that special day that I could use it...........
I came across the certificate again, shortly after my sixteenth birthday. Though I certainly was old enough, I was also old enough to see that my father was struggling to pay off the medical bills for my mother who had passed away a year earlier after a long, emotionally and financially draining fight with cancer. So, I never brought the subject up, with my father..
It was a strange coincidence that when I was sixteen-in-a-half my father asked me if I’d like to take some hang gliding lessons with him. I smile, now, when I think of it because for a moment the ‘father-son’ roles were reversed. The son asked his father if he thought that hang gliding was a very safe thing to be doing. Keep in mind that I had a picture of hang gliding lessons involving a run off some precipitous cliff. He seemed surprised by my reticence to take him up on the offer and I told him that I would like to watch one of his lessons and see how it ‘was’. Once I saw the type of introductory flying that the hang glider instructor was guiding the new students through, I was relieved. The learning site was a sandy, gentle slope near the ocean. The students would strap in with their harnesses and run down the slope like some crazed, hell-bent, Gooney Bird and at the ‘right’ moment; hang prone in the harness, push out the control bar for magical fleeting seconds of flight. After each flight, the student that flew would disconnect their harness from the hang glider and walk it up the ‘hill’ for the next student; at which point the whole process would begin again. It took me all of 10 minutes to ask my dad how soon I could begin taking hang gliding lessons too.
I’ll always remember that first lesson when I ‘flew’ (albeit, for only a few seconds), suspended beneath the hang glider. The only way I can describe those first, delicious moments of flight was at that instant the ‘dream world’ and the ‘real world’ joined as one. Successive lessons followed, though it became too costly for me to continue, so I never progressed any further than ‘sleigh rides’ down the gentle sand dunes at the beach. Coincidentally, though I didn't know it at the time,,, flight instruction in a plane would have been cheaper than my hanggliding lessons,,,, but I just didn't know - just presumed that airplane instruction was prohibitively expensive.
Months passed and high school graduation came and went. Soon, it was Fall and I was preparing to pack my things to head off for college. As I was going through my dresser drawers I again came across the Cessna flying certificate. Of course, it had long since expired but I still had much misgivings about throwing it away; for no other reason than the dream it represented to me – to pilot a plane through the blue skies, to walk with the winds.
College pulled me off to other adventures and further learning and growth but the burning desire to be in the sky never left me. In fact, during some summer breaks and after my college graduation I continued dabbling in the forms of flight that seemed more financially attainable (that is, I didn't know how affordable learning to fly a plane would be, by contrast). Even bought my own, used, hang glider. My brother and I flew for almost a year, doing little more than sleigh rides down the tall hill-mountains of sand at Dillon Beach. Unfortunately, I ended up wrecking the ‘kite’ after flying from a point that my skills did not warrant. Got a particularly bad broken arm in the accident but was deeply thankful that it was only my arm and not my neck; an injury which tends to be endemic to serious hang glider crash injuries.
Still, I wanted to fly and many years passed. I took a few passing lessons in a paraglider (kind of like a hang glider that uses a flexible ‘parachute’ wing) and enjoyed it especially since I could fly in a seated, upright position.
Click the picture on the left to view clip of my first paragliding flight (large file 12.1MB)
My pocketbook only allowed ‘dabbling’ at that point and I knew what I really wanted, but the cost of learning to fly a plane was still a little more than a pipe dream and like most people I mistakenly presumed that learning to fly a plane was more expensive than it actually was.
Everybody makes the common mistake of assuming that ‘someday’ a dream or goal will be more feasible or attainable; that one only needs to wait for the ‘right’ time and the opportunity will ceremoniously present itself. Life has taught me that such a belief is not so; the ‘right’ time never comes – rather one must ‘make’ the opportunity arise through sheer will and determination. It is from this point of realization that my story of pursuing my dream of becoming a private pilot and the adventures beyond, begins. It is in that pursuit that I begin a challenge that demands that one becomes a whole that is greater than the current sum of one’s ‘parts’.
I took my first lesson, my introductory flight on December 24, 1999. If you are thinking about flying and have always been wanting to do so; do it! My ONLY regret about learning to fly has been that I wished I had started sooner. But like most people I assumed that the price tag of learning to fly was greater than it actually was and I should stress here that I am no 'rich' man other than by virtue of the 'spiritual richness' that flying has brought to my life. Believe me, you would be shocked to see how truly affordable learning to fly is (by the way, when learning to fly, you pay as you go - NEVER (!!!!!) pay for lessons in one lump-sum) .
In closing; I would be hard-pressed to imagine a more rewarding and challenging experience; on multiple levels. Always remember, there is no better time than the present. If your heart longs to fly in the skies, there is no better time to begin than today!
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