Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Airplanes on the Walls

Well it’s that time of the semester again. The time those of you who graduated already fondly remember, the time those of us still in school look forward to every term…welcome to finals week everybody. Finals week is a great time filled with coffee, marathon study sessions at the library, coffee, highlighter marks and sticky notes everywhere, coffee, curses to MATLAB, CATIA, and other computer programs, coffee, coffee, mumbling equations in your sleep, no sleep, coffee, and coffee. It’s a time no-one particularly likes. Anyway I was studying during our school appropriately named study day, when I got some inspiration and decided to write something about it.

In our library, because we have an aviation complex (I think it’s a medical condition) there are pictures of airplanes everywhere. I mean everywhere. We even have an airplane hanging upside down from the ceiling. There is really something wrong with us. Just kidding I think it’s awesome. Probably both. The thing that hit me though was this drawing of a 1918 Fokker D-VII biplane that was hanging on the wall in front of the little desk I was working at. I was trying my hardest to review the lab manual that was in front of me but I couldn’t stop thinking about this airplane drawing. It was maybe 15″ by 13″, in a frame, hanging on the wall. The airplane was painted red from the spinner until the middle of the cockpit, then a nice mustard yellow color through the rudder. It had WWI German markings on it (it is a German airplane), and a little box containing some specifications and performance data. For instance it could climb to 6,500 feet in a matter of 8 minutes and 18 seconds. Why 6,500 feet was so important I haven’t the slightest clue. It’s top speed at sea level was 117 and 1/2 miles an hour. I imagine the german dude, Claus, taking the measurement to be like “Hanz! Hanz! Ze needle ist betveen ze lines! Was shall Ich Machen??” and Hanz to be like “Ach Nein! Du bist kaput! Putten ein half! Ja!” But I digress. That vision did make studying a little easier, but that’s not what really got me.

No, what really got me was I kept thinking what a horrible misrepresentation of a thing. I mean this machine that flew through the skies in World War I and turned and banked and fought and crashed and…and now here it is in a little 13 x 15 frame as a side profile that some college students don’t look twice at. Even at a place like Humpty Diddle…er I mean.. Embry Riddle. And then I looked at the frame next to it which contained MILLIONS of little side profile drawings of some really old flying machines. There was even a pterodactyl. Just kidding. But there was a hot air balloon that was almost as old. These things that were literally revolutionary to the bug that we all caught (I told you it’s a medical thing) that brought us to Embry Riddle in the first place. And now they just sit on walls. I mean they may get a passing glance. Maybe. But that is not nearly enough to give justice to what is actually depicted on the paper. The things that these aircraft did in real life…it’s a terrible injustice really.

I kept imagining this airplane flying through the early 20th century sky and what it was like to be in the cockpit, firing the machine guns, or smelling the oil and fuel that the 6 cylinder mercedes engine needed to pull the craft along. It is kind of amazing when you think about all the stats of that old airplane and how much went into the craft. I mean this thing flew, not just flew but flew in arial combat, only 14 years after the Wright brothers first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And now it’s trapped in an oil painting. Ok so not exactly an oil painting, I think it is a print of some type, but it’s the same idea. And those of you who watch The Office got an extra smile. This journey I was taking in my imagination did make it slightly difficult to focus on my task at hand, which was studying for finals, and I’m pretty sure my long gazing stares at the wall were more than creeping the kid next to me out, and keep in mind I was pretty heavily dosed with caffeine at this point in the game, but it was kinda worth it. In fact I think that’s kind of the point. And I think, especially during the fun of finals week, it’s something we could all use a little more of.

Because see here is the thing. Finals week isn’t the end of the world. Nor is any problem that comes up that seems big and daunting and filled with coffee. No, the reality is it will be over in a week and it won’t seem like a big deal at all. Now I get that this doesn’t really make it seem any less crappy to be staring down the barrel of 4 finals and 3 projects in 2 days but, my point here is that during these times, more than the times of normal stress levels, but still then too, remember to look at the airplanes on the walls. Take them out for a spin. Take an extra moment to appreciate that someone measured the time it took to climb to 6,500 feet, and the little details that someone took the time to draw on the piece of paper that is in the frame. And then think about the people who designed it and the people who flew it and what that would have been like. The mental break is good. Whatever your finals week may entail, I do hope you find your airplane on the wall, and don’t end up pulling your hair out. And remember, there’s always more coffee. Happy finals everyone.

Scars

There’s really no way around this one. It’s gunna be ugly. Scars suck. They really do. There is nothing good about them. Not the way they look, not the way they are formed, nothing. The suckier (yes, it’s a word) part is that we all have them. I do. I’m sure everyone else does too. Sometimes they are small and seemingly insignificant. Sometimes they are so big we can’t hide from them…I mean hide them. That might have been Freudian.

The thing about scars is they don’t come from good things. They come after injury. Injuries are bad. Injuries hurt. We don’t go out looking for injuries. We don’t go out looking to hurt ourselves. Not if we’re sane. Which could lead to a whole other blog entry. But there is some sense of self preservation that goes along with being human. It’s like, you could bite off your finger as easily as you could bite through a baby carrot, but you don’t, because your brain says, “Stop it you moron, that’s your finger.” …Now all of you take your fingers out of your mouth. No, scars do not come with out pain. And pain is bad.

Now I am not saying that some scars are not worth getting. I mean, look at battle scars. Those involve a sense of patriotism which is a good thing, and without them we would be reading this in German or Latin or somewhere not at our own leisure. Some scars do involve good things. Some women have scars from when they gave birth to their children, and while they may never stop picking on their kid for it, I’m like 99.9999 percent sure that they would gladly have the scar again to have their kid. But even with those scars, there is pain involved. At least for the person who has them. Even those scars do not come without injury and without healing. No, no one wants scars.

Scars are imperfections. Perfect. That is a hard thing. I am the first to tell you that I love imperfections. I believe that without them everything and everyone would be identical and there would be nothing unique about any of it. I like to think that imperfections are the things that actually make us perfect in the eyes of the people who love us. And even with this bit about scars, I still believe that. There is one difference. Scars are painful imperfections. Scars bring back bad things. There is a fine line here which I would be lying to you if I said I had all worked out. Because scars are things that make us unique. Scars are the little things that we have to learn to love about other people. Which is really confusing I know. It is really confusing to me too sometimes. It confuses me even as I sit here and write about it. Maybe the people who love your scars are what makes them less painful in the end.

Some scars are really ugly and painful though. I’ve got some. I’m not talking about the physical scars. I’ve got those. My right thumbnail got hit by a billiard ball and is all misconfigured. There is a bald spot behind my left ear that I’ll have forever. But those are just little physical things. My painful scars are on the inside. I don’t know if I will ever fully come to terms with them. These are the scars for things we have done that only hurt emotionally or spiritually. I’m sure we all have some of those too. And yeah they suck. These are the ones where you are the only one that knows. You have to be really open and candid with people for them to find out. And they may not like finding out. What happens then, I don’t know.

Some scars make us weaker. When you get a piece of skin that is scarred, hair won’t grow back, it will be more apt to getting sunburn, and all sorts of other things that make it weaker than the skin around it. Some of these things go away over time. But some don’t. The skin will probably never be quite what it was again. But other scars make you stronger. They heal completely and then some. When you break a bone it is actually stronger, once it had healed, than it was before. That does not mean that scars are good, no they are still painful. It still brings back pain when you think about it or when it is healing. But, it can be stronger.

The thing, I think, about the internal, emotional, and spiritual scars is that we don’t know whether they will leave us weaker or stronger afterwards. While all the pain is happening it hurts the same either way. Sometimes it hurts a lot. Not knowing does not help the pain any. It does not make it easier. But amongst that struggle, there is still some light.

See, even Jesus had scars. One on each hand, one in his side, one on his feet. Talk about scars. Those could not have been easy to live with. It was some pretty evil stuff that caused those scars. You could even say that those scars made him…imperfect. But wait hold on a second. Without those scars, we would have no hope for ours. Without those scars we would not be able to find forgiveness for ours. These are quite literally perfect imperfections. Jesus died on the cross for us. He made the sacrifice himself for us. Talk about perfect. His scars were the ultimate pain, but in the end they give us the ultimate fix for our scars, forgiveness. His imperfections save us from ours. I am still trying to figure all this stuff out, and not all the pieces are quite together but on this part I am pretty sure. I am also sure that this does not mean at all that we should go looking for ways to cause scars, no, that’s not it at all. Scars are still really painful and bad. I still don’t like the one’s I have. I’ve grown to live with the one on my thumb and the one behind my ear, but I hate the big ones. The emotional ones. I do not like them at all, not one bit.

I guess I’m just angry that I have scars. I don’t know if that anger is justified, but it’s there. But I caused my scars. So I will live with them. Forgive myself for causing them, so others can too. The moral here I think, is scars still suck. Don’t go looking for them. The one’s you find along the way will be bad enough. Yeah, I don’t like scars.

This is a Love Story

Ok so there’s a ton of stuff that I should probably write about and put up on here, because my brain has been running at 670616629 miles an hour for a few weeks now. All of that will find it’s way onto this little corner of cyberspace at some point or another, but I’ve been thinking about this one thing recently and I’ve decided to write about it because, well it’s a good thing. Actually if I’m honest, it’s a love story.

You’ve probably already deduced it by now, or know me so…you know like in real life and not from some computer screen, but I am a pilot. Since I go to a school like Embry-Riddle it’s not all that uncommon to find pilots around, but the truth is there are not a lot of us in comparison to the general population or the US. The number is something a little over 600,000 (according to AOPA as of 2011) which using some maths, works out to be about 0.2% of people in the US. I know 600,000 seems like a lot but 0.2%…well I don’t think any of us would like that grade. The thing is, I think that flying is such a romantic thing. Every pilot has their own love affair with aviation and every one is a little different. But the greatest thing is, that no matter what, pilots (as I’m sure the non-pilots reading this can attest to) can get together and talk about flying for quite literally hours and hours. I don’t know if it ever quite hits the non-pilot though. I started flying when I was pretty young, and I have had my head in the clouds since I was about 4, so I really don’t have a good perspective for a non-flyers take on this but I imagine that if you’re on the outside seeing something that people can talk about for hours and that puts that goofy grin on any pilots face must at least spark a little interest.

My love affair started when I was a little kid. I mean like 4 years old. I loved airplanes. I really don’t know what first caused me too. My dad isn’t a pilot, my mom isn’t a pilot, none of my grandparents are pilots. My great uncle is, but I didn’t really know that he was a pilot until after I caught the bug. Anyway I would read whatever I could that involved airplanes. I just liked everything about them. My parents used to take me to our local international airport and we would just go into the terminal all day on a Saturday and watch airplanes. You could do that then because the government was able to look at a human being (especially a 5 year old human being) interested in airplanes and not immediately think terrorist. But I digress. My love for planes continued to grow in the abstract, before I had ever piloted a little plane. Then when I was 13 years old I went through about 20 minutes that I can say have changed my life forever. You never forget your first. A little Schweizer 2-33 training glider, N5712S. After that all hope was lost. I was in love.

I’ve been continuing to fly ever since then, and now I have a glider rating, a single engine land rating, and an instrument rating. The crazy part is in the grand scheme of things I’m a pretty new pilot. I’m still learning new things about flying all the time. I think the goal is to always be learning things about flying. Even the old guys don’t know everything. There’s something extremely romantic about flying to me though, and I have always thought this. I recently got involved with the Experimental Aircraft Association and sort of fell in love again with flying.

The EAA is an organization that is just all about flying. There are others too, like AOPA and Sun-n-Fun. What’s better is they are all about flying for fun. Which is something that people don’t do enough. It’s not the easiest time to be getting started into general aviation (GA) right now, with all the political hubbub that is going on. And with the security measures that we take at our small town airports and places that should be used to bring aviation into the lives of more people. The other week I went with Matt to see a friend of ours do his first solo, and I was kind of amazed that we could just like walk out right up the the parked aircraft. It shouldn’t be that way. People should feel invited to come to airports and learn about aviation. Despite the nature of the times or whatever you want to call it, it’s still a good time to learn how to fly. Because any time is a good time. How many times have you heard a pilot respond any thing other than ‘yeah!’ to the question, ‘wanna go flying?’

Flying also can bring people together like nothing else. It doesn’t matter if your old or young, have been flying for years or just started, or anything. If you have a passion for flying, you have hours of conversation to that could be had with anyone else who has a passion for flying. One of my favorite questions to ask a new pilot friend is, “how did you get into flying?” The answer is always different and it always fun for pilots to remember their own story. Flying is one of the only places that high school students can have a genuine discussion with 5 start generals and CEO’s and no-one cares about any social dynamics, there’s just a common love for flying. It’s pretty cool to watch, and even cooler to be a part of.

I’m going to leave you with this. It’s a paragraph I wrote one night when I was thinking about being a pilot. I think it sums it up pretty well.

There’s going to come a time, one day, at the end of the day, when you are lying in your warm cozy bed at night thinking over what you did that day. You’ll think of the burnt toast you ate for breakfast. Or the little dog that ran under your feet while jogging. The problems that nag you will keep nagging. The upcoming test, the presentation at work, whatever it is. Maybe you’ll think about some of your peers, colleagues, acquaintances. You’ll think about what they may have done. You;ll move to your friends. And then, it’ll get you. You’ll think of the aircraft that you flew that day. The contraption of metal and wires and cable and bolts and tires and paint and lights and dials and switches…and you’ll think how so very sexy all that is, when it comes together. Sleek, beautiful, gentle, carefree, safe, powerful, awesome. You’ll think of the view, that would bring you to your knees had you not been strapped into your seat, of the sun setting over the meandering river next to the mountains. You’ll think of the laughter you and your friends shared over something only a pilot would understand. You’ll think of how when all the little things align, this, flying, is like nothing else in the world. Then you’ll remind yourself that you took something that is a sum of many things that never were meant to leave the face of this earth farther than man could throw, and soared thousands of feet high. How you knew what to do to guide this beautiful contraption up, and more importantly, back down again. And how doing that, well, is kind of bad-ass. And you’ll smile, and fall fast asleep still soaring through the clouds.