When are you happiest?

Neil Peart was the drummer for the band, Rush.  He was an avid motorcyclist and wrote many books about his travels.  In Far and Wide, he is quoted as saying he is happiest when he is riding and he is happiest when he’s done riding.  This is exactly how I feel about flying.  

With any kind of sport, activity or other adventure outside your front door, there are inherent risks.  The more you study about aviation, the easier it becomes to mitigate those risks, though they never completely go away.  For example, if you’ve spent time studying your autopilot and it suddenly does something you didn’t expect, you would know three distinct ways to disable the system and take over hand flying.  If you didn’t train about it and had an inflight issue, your safety risks go way up.   My goal and really the goal of any pilot should be to learn and keep learning as much as possible about all the factors involved in a flight including (but not limited to) the systems, engine, fuel requirements, flight characteristics, weather, flight path, obstacles, terrain, runways, weight and balance and air space. 

There’s so much going on during a typical flight that I find myself fully immersed in the task at hand…flying the plane.  When I’m flying, I’m so focused on all the aspects of the flight, that my mind goes in to a kind of Zen.  I’m no longer thinking about the worries I’ve left on the ground.  I’m not concerned about the other events of the day so much.  It’s at this time where my mind breaks free from all the other constant noise that is life and allows me the space to just be one with aviation.   Don’t get me wrong, this is a very busy time and I am actively paying attention to many things at one time.  But they are all aviation related.

Plus, the views are spectacular!

It’s all this combined…the risk and the reward…that make me the happiest when I’m flying. 

When I land and taxi off to a parking space and the plane is finally shutdown, I am happy for the successful flight and the knowledge that the plane and it’s passengers made it safely back to terra firma.   Risk is reduced and at that moment, I’m happiest as well.  Just knowing how lucky I am to get to do this amazing activity, do it well, enjoy it, keep learning and doing it safely is its own form of happiness.  

So, what makes you happiest?  Taking on any hobby or skill that can be a lifelong learning process can provide the same feelings.  You could learn to play an instrument or a new language.  Whatever the task, if you find yourself immersed and the whole world melts away, that’s your Zen!  For me, that’s learning to fly.