Actually, airplanes are one of the few things in this world that transcend the boundaries between classical and romantic ideals. In a classical sense, the principles of flight have been designed on very brilliant yet surprisingly simple concepts of physics. In addition, a functioning airplane makes such efficient use of resources and mechanical and electrical systems as to be able to cross continents and oceans, carry hundreds of people or thousands of pounds of cargo, and break sound barriers (not all at once of course).
But airplanes and flight are also very romantic by nature. After all, what better instrument of ultimate freedom and individualism? Flying thousands of feet above the earth's surface with total control of your craft and the direction you will take is not only totally empowering, but quite liberating as well. As a pilot, you cut your own path, and the world is but a canvass beneath you, changing at your whimsey and providing scenery and perception impossible to an earthbound man.
So that's the segway, dammit, but it's not really what I want to write about.
This past week I was able to spend about 5 days in Tennessee with my father, whom I respect, admire, and strive to be similar to in many aspects of my life. My dad is a retired airline pilot who now works for the FAA. His career has literally spanned all facets of aviation, including single engine flight instruction, carrying the mail (one of the most dangerous flying gigs around, for those of you that don't know), corporate flying, airline executive, airline flying, airline training, and now working for the watchdog - the FAA.
My father has been able to acheive great things in his life because he had three things: Dreams, goals, and the ambition and will-power to make things happen for himself. Growing up I know we weren't wealthy, but my family was always well provided for. I don't recall my father ever bitching about how he had ever been slighted, wronged, or short-changed for any reason. I remember him working very hard, flying long trips, fixing things, building things, loving my mother, and somehow still spending ample time with me and my sister. All this, and I can barely find time to take my dog for a walk. Unbelievable. My father never drank, never smoked, dipped, chewed, swore, hit, yelled, or threatened. He was never shady and he never disappeared for days at a time.
What were his vices? What were his releases? To be honest, I don't know. One might be tempted to classify my dad as a puritan or straight-laced. But this is not the case either, as he has always had a great sense of humor and the quickest of witts. One of the most light-hearted and jovial men I've ever known, my images of him mostly consist of him laughing at some random joke or something he did that was goofy as all hell.
I realize that I'm probably biased, but the fact of the matter is that my dad is one of the best men I've ever known. I look at his life and his experiences (aviation was only one of many careers my father held) and can't help but feel... small. Or maybe one-dimensional is a better description. I guess I just feel like my father knows so much about so many things, and I (along with my generation of young men) am on track to a lot about a little, at best. Cultural changes, or a tragic change in the composition of today's men? I don't know..
So I had set out to write about airplanes, and the fact of the matter is that I had the time of my life in Tennessee flying with my father. My pilot's certifications as well as my love for of aviation were reborn and I can't wait to get back into the skies and behind the throttle. But as I write this I realize that although I have developed a love for airplanes and aviation, perhaps it is my admiration for my father which has been the catalyst for my love of flying, and the reason I can't wait to get back in the air to see if maybe, somehow, I can compare to him and the things that he's done both in the skies, and with his life.