People ask me strange questions sometimes about being a pilot, flying airplanes and aviation, in general. Laughing at them would be frowned upon, so keeping a straight face has become my main objective. Most people are very interested, intrigued and encouraging. They may be a little jealous too.
There are many things people are concerned about when it comes to aviation training. For those opposed to piloting airplanes, the most common question is: “Why would you want to do that?!” Or their body language alleges “Let’s say our goodbyes now, because you’re obviously going to crash and die.” Thank you very much for the confidence. Aviation was a normal part of conversation for me growing up, so airplanes are nothing to be afraid of. It’s in my blood. Travel and adventure make life meaningful for me. Living my whole life with both feet on the ground in one place would be excruciating. Not everyone is like that and that’s okay.
It’s usually fairly easy to come up with a few “cons” to almost anything. Recently, I sat down and penned my own list of personal gripes about flight training.
The Misery: 1, 2, 3
1). No matter what time of year it is, it’s one temperature outside of my little plane and five minutes later there’s at least a 20 degree difference inside of my little plane.
If it’s summer time, I’m sweating my hiney off during the preflight. After climbing 3,000 feet into the air, where’s my freakin’ jacket?! What used to be sweat dripping down my back has now turned into some unidentifiable frozen substance. On the other hand, if it’s tundra season, my fingers are numb and my breath is visible outside while sumping fuel. Patience is required. In a matter of moments, once airborne, the planes heater will kick in. The sweating can be so bad, the window must be cracked open. And it’s below freezing…It’s one of those crazy contradictions that must be dealt with. Like mom says: layer, layer, layer.
2). There are no potty breaks. I can’t actually live in my little plane for very long (Waah!). My car has everything necessary to sustain life for a week, guaranteed. When the pantry is empty at my house, the kids actually start looking through my car because there are always snacks tucked away in there. A mother can’t hide anything of value from teenage boys for long! Grrrr. My vehicle stores blankets, tissue, hand sanitizer, toothpicks, a flashlight (which of course my plane has too!), reading material, bottled water, rope (you never know when you might need that), a confiscated iPod (or two), pens, paper, a football, knives, a stack of cards, etc., etc. All of that can’t be carried in my little plane! Two words: weight and balance.
3). The last beef is that there’s no excuse for purchasing nice, new, stylish clothes. There’s nothing more satisfying than lifting off the ground with a clean, new, white shirt, right? Except of course that it will be stained with oil, bug guts or sweat within 10 minutes (see paragraph 5 above). Pointless. Basically, you learn to be okay sporting “functional” apparel. You can’t really afford to waste your money on clothes that will be stained anyway (you’ve maxed your credit cards with AvGas) and your priority becomes maneuverability. I’m not talking about just steep turns either. Flying an airplane while reaching in the backseat for your battery pack takes flexibility. It’s almost like trying to clean your backseat toddler during those few split seconds at a stoplight.
Is It Really Worth It?
My grievances actually add up to a whole bunch of nothing. The heat, the cold, the lack of snacks or clean outfit would never deter me from enjoying my little cockpit each time I climb in for my next adventure. Whether my bladder is full, my stomach is growling or there’s sweat dripping down my back while my toes have lost feeling, it’s worth it. To me, that means everything.