One Man's Unique Journey through the World of Aviation
I do not claim to be a great pilot. I certainly have not accomplished something that no one else has achieved. I am not pretending to have flown the highest performance planes, or to have executed the most difficult or precise aerobatics. So why would I write about myself in regard to my aviation past? The reason is to afford the reader a glimpse into a young man’s desire to push his personal boundaries, to follow a dream, and to achieve what is of great personal value. My aviation past is far from ordinary, and offers a look into a realm that few have experienced and even fewer truly understand.
My early aviation life was something of a perfect storm—ability and opportunity merging to form one of the most exciting, but dangerous of all youthful scenarios. I am currently writing more of my aviation past in hopes that those who come later will both appreciate my experiences and avoid the pitfalls of a youth plagued by many a bad decision. Although I am not ready to release my full story, I will share some of my early days as excerpts from a possible future book.
My good fortune in meeting Marion F. Cole led me into one of the most fulfilling eras of my life, my airshow experiences. Frequently traveling with Marion and his brother Duane of aerobatic fame, I will cherish many great and unforgettable experiences. I often think back on those days with great friends and wonderful experiences—truly the fulfillment of a dream.
Recently, I was thinking of the fact that I have long craved a oneness with my machines no matter what those vehicles happen to be. The feeling of having an airplane or an automobile be a complete extension of one’s own self has always fascinated me. Although I am an engineer and have taught instrumentation at the college level many times, I care nothing for instrument flying. Although I respect those whose desire is to fly the best equipped modern planes with the newest gadgets, I simply want the basics from aviation. I want the unique unity that comes from being a part of the machine—to feel and experience the sensation of flight through every bodily perception possible.
No matter what I accomplish in my life, I do believe the one thing I would love for people to say about me would be to simply state, “He's a good stick and rudder man.” Through the basic aircraft controls, I receive everything I want from my aviation. It is not surprising that my favorite music is early jazz, the music of the 20s and 30s played many times by musicians who couldn’t read a note of music, but experience a unity with their instrument that expresses their feelings as no formal penned work can.
Flying to me can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences one can enjoy. I often tell people that there are different levels to flying. When you learn to fly, it is exciting to enter this new world of three-dimensional freedom. Different people gravitate to distinct areas of flying, but few would argue that it is an exciting thing to learn. Add the realm of aerobatics to one’s skill list and a totally new dimension opens to that individual. Being able to take a plane through its paces is more than exciting and perhaps often the end goal to many. However, there is more—much more.
The excitement of doing skilled aerobatics at near ground altitudes is beyond my words to express. There are few experiences a person can have (not going to start listing those here) that can top the feelings of low level airshow-type flying. I remember many times my mentor and teacher Marion Cole telling me to stop flying so low. “The crowd can’t see you down there!” he would say. I hope the reader will check out my video section where I have GoPro camera videos of some of my low level practice sessions. Read excerpts from my book…