Jun 29, 2015 – The Great Novel Analogy

Hypothesis: The path and planning to achieving an additional pilot rating is not unlike the plot of an exciting novel.

I’ve spent some time thinking about how best to describe what I get out of all the effort I put into aviation. I think using the novel analogy will help you understand what it does for me, and what might be in it for you. Bare with me for a few minutes and enjoy a glimpse into general aviation flight training that is very much fun and very real.

A Novel Scenario: Picture yourself on a comfortable porch at the beach with no plans for the day. It is raining outside and the kids are taking a break from the rides and the beach to play board games in the other room. Your to-do list for the day includes coffee and the chance to finish that really exciting novel you’ve been too busy to get back to. The rest of your obligations take a back seat, and you peel back the next page and dive in.

Deep into the story and totally wrapped up in the experience, you eagerly read the next page and the next. The drama continues to build as the complex threads of the story start coming together – giving you a new understanding and desire to see where this will go. Then it happens – you turn the next page and realize that once you read these two paragraphs – there is no more.

While the conclusion is satisfying and the journey has been fun and exciting, you feel it ended too soon. Your disappointment is not with the story or how it has ended – that is all well enough – but simply the fact that it has ended. Just moments ago you were in a submarine returning to base after a nation saving mission, or a wounded captain landing a stricken jet as your co-pilot clings to life. Now you are just you again – awesome in your own right, but not quite so worldly. The story has ended and the movie is over.

It is then that you realize that there are several sequels to the story just completed, and you have the time and resources in place to enjoy them.  You grab that next novel, devouring the first few new chapters. The characters are the same and the story remains credible. It is worthy of your time and you enjoy the diversion from thoughts of work and other responsibilities. You suddenly find yourself budgeting time in your days for this, long after vacation has ended. you are not sure where this is going.

Flying is like that: The private pilot license represents that first novel. One that I’d repeatedly referred to, dissected, and then exercised in real life. The practice of flying, self teaching, and recurrent training itself is exciting and enjoyable. Reading that awesome novel again and again – being contented with reliving the same or similar experiences.

Five years hence, I’d began to rent a wider variety of airplanes, taking them to more reaching destinations. Looking for a new challenge. My finances had improved along with confidence and skill. I was bored though, however, and couldn’t picture myself continuing in this routine. New interests needed to be ignited, and new goals needed to be established. I’d reached the last page in that first great novel.

Learning to fly by instruments proved to be the next great challenge. It is most technical and difficult to master of all the ratings ultimately achieved.  Flying by instruments involves real life risk management, direct assessment of your own skills on a daily basis, and the courage to go out alone and just do it. If you ultimately suck at it, the world will know as soon as you start talking and not following directions.

Training for my instrument rating was a blast. The reading was technical; flying was precise; and the satisfaction immediate with every approach. I studied vociferously until I knew the material cold. The purchase of my first instrument simulator during this period allowed me to practice at home and between lessons too. I was totally into this.

After successfully passing my Instrument check-ride, I was successful, but lacked the confidence to go out on my own. I continued to hire instructors to fly with me in actual conditions for several additional months. That is, until they insisted they were not at all needed and I just had to go it alone.  I took that advice and flew into OSHKOSH for the very first time.  My confidence soared.

I also learned something.  I learned that when the training was all done and the check-ride in the bag, I felt let down.  It was the training itself I enjoyed. That is what was giving me the rush and the challenge that I needed as an outlet. When it was done – I missed it.

Thus it was that I started going after a new rating as soon as one was accomplished. My resume grew to include Commercial, Flight Instructor, Instrument Flight Instructor, Multi-engine, Multi-engine Instrument Instructor, Air Transport Pilot, and Seaplane. I even soloed a Glider out in Tahoe, but didn’t have the time to get a check-ride in there. Holy Cow this was fun.

Conclusion: Flying – that is getting a new rating or preparing for a new challenge – is just like reading a fantastic novel. Moving onto the next rating is like picking up another great novel to learn new and fresh ideas, but mostly to enjoy the process and live the story.

Authors Note:  My business career with the utilities progressed in a manner similar to aviation, and the same analogy could work. Very successful with a different set of interesting novels that I’d read during the day. Since our discussion is about aviation here, I won’t delve too deeply, other than to say the the novel analogy works there too. Business and aviation hold the same passion, challenges, and interest for me. Aviation has always taken a back seat to business, for practical reasons. Without business – there’d be no aviation for me. Both brought joy, so making the right call there involved no pain.