Outgrowing your dream

Country Roads

At a monthly luncheon with a group of other aging baby boomers, a conversation with a few old friends turned to the matter of unachieved goals. Now in retirement, what life goals did we not achieve during our younger years?

I quickly identified my unachieved goal: learning to fly. As a youngster I watched airplanes scoot across the sky and dreamed that someday I would be an airplane pilot.

Back in my youth I had a Walter Mitty complex. I was a day dreamer and had big dreams. In the classroom I often stared out the window and dreamed about the future. These were big dreams (yet unachieved) like becoming wealthy and driving fancy cars. I also dreamed of being a cop and achieved that goal by serving on the police reserve back in my home county. It was a good experience and it helped me understand that when one is large and ungainly being a cop may not be the best career choice.

About this time I got to know our local small town airport manager and shared with him my dream of flying. He told me about a $5.00 introductory lesson and invited me to come out the airport and give it a try. At that point in my life I had never been in an airplane.

While my wife and I were on a very tight budget I figured we could afford a $5.00 airplane ride.

So it was on a sunny afternoon the airport manager/flight instructor took me up for the first time.

Upon reaching the desired altitude, the instructor leveled off the plane and I could see below us a beautiful river valley not visible from roads. I was awestruck by the sight and my desire to fly grew stronger.

At one point the instructor let me take the controls. After a half hour he landed and, back in his office, handed me a flight log for future flights.

Then we talked about the ultimate cost of getting my private license and I decided I wouldn’t need that logbook in the near future.

On that flight a co-worker friend rode along. He was also fascinated with flying and a week later he took his $5.00 introductory lesson. He went on to study for his private and commercial licenses and multi-engine and IFR (instrument) ratings.

While working on his commercial license he invited me to a ride-along. We were going to do a gliding spiral maneuver, he said. We climbed to about 5,000 feet at which point he cut back the throttle and began spiraling downward with an imaginary pivot on the left wing. Heretofore, I had not had any motion sickness problems in the air but the gliding spiral tripped the detectors that put my stomach on regurgitation alert. I said nothing until my pilot friend asked if I wanted to feel weightless. I told him I was already nauseated and asked him not to try any tricks.

He agreed and let me take the controls for a time. My desire to learn to fly grew stronger.

Heading back to the airport my friend decided to try the “weightless” trick anyway. He cut the throttle and nosed downward at the same time. The rapid descent indeed made me feel weightless. My weightless stomach reacted by emptying itself… right there in the cockpit.

A search for a sick bag was in vain and upon landing my friend and I spent more than a half hour cleaning out the rental airplane cockpit.

My pilot/friend apologized profusely. I quickly forgave him. Shoot, I wanted to go up again… soon.

Later, living in Sioux City, I investigated flight instruction opportunities and discovered the price had nearly doubled. My income had not. Once again, I put flying on a back burner.

I read about flying and watch TV programs about flight. I understand the principles of flight but in reality it’s all still a dream.

The old longing to fly is still alive. When a small plane flies overhead in a beautiful cloudless sky my youthful dream returns. Alas, it’s not the sort of dream folks pursue in retirement. Passing the required physical exams gets tougher as you get older.

Besides, I don’t know if I fit in the constricted space of a cockpit anymore. I fear I have outgrown my dream.