Flying at Christmas
Flying at Christmas
The pavement outside my office window is damp with microscopic puddles showing the low spots in the concrete that makes up the cul de sac it sits on. Despite the overcast that looks to be maybe 1500 AGL I take this as a good sign because the fact I am seeing water in its liquid form instead of the result of frozen precipitation means the temperatures have begun their steady rise from the mid 20s of the weekend and I have a reasonable chance of launching in the morning for my scheduled trip to Virginia for Christmas. Scheduled as opposed to planned in that I have only committed so far to a destination and approximate departure time but other variables such as routing await better Intel as to the intentions of the weather Gods as the time draws nigh.
That I would schedule is, in itself, a somewhat unreasonable thing, given the economic circumstances and all. 2008 has not been what I consider a “good” year. I’ve faced financial calamity that has led to painful decisions involving lawyers, courts, creditors, and such. Reading, as most do, about the tribulations of the domestic automobile industry, I relate – in the way a grain of sand must relate to the wind and tides that affect the fate of the dunes. A small cog in a big wheel of commerce that, depending on ones perspective, can loom as large as any enterprise when the number of shareholders is exactly one and your name is the one recorded in the various tomes that declare such things to be true.
No it has not been a good year. And while the concern is surely for oneself with the losses merely tallied and the dreadful specter of failure and its fateful consequences never too far from the center of your being you go on mindful of the impact such failure will have; the range of its extension into the lives of the innocents – employees, suppliers, customers – that in some way, by choice or not, believed in you. But you recall, from things read and lessons heard, that one must buck up, exude strength, provide that which you feel so incapable of mustering – leadership – as without it the floundering will continue the outcome never in doubt only the timing of defeat and all its ramifications left to be revealed..
But I will fly. Not because it is the most efficient thing as the flight time without accounting for any time spent on the ground, doing preflight or enroute at refueling stops, will be in excess of five and a half hours. Of course that assumes perfect conditions where one is free to fly at just the right altitude, on just the right course as to take one on the perfect Great Circle route between the exact latitude and longitude from whence I will begin to where I will end, the flight. Things rarely, if ever, go “so swimmingly”. And, rather that sit in a nice climate controlled cocoon that is the silver pressurized tube of a commercial airliner enjoying the company of some 135 or so people I don’t even know, I will make the journey in a cramped cockpit where, being advertised as suitable for someone up to 6’3” in height by the designer, I will contort my 6’5” frame. One hopes for a lack of turbulence for in turbulence as the tiny airplane that weighs in under one half a ton empty will be thrown up and down faster that the mechanical bulls so popular in the more touristy honky tonk bars of Texas causing, among other discomforts, the banging of ones knee caps on the underside of the instrument panel, often with great effect.
One might assume some economic incentive to the chosen mode of transportation. Well given the lateness of the decision to commit to the trip you could infer that, due to the airlines tendency to reward those who plan and purchase ticket far in advance of their scheduled travel day, especially in proximity to a holiday, that the cost of conveyance by airline to have some significant economic penalty associated with it. But again, due in no small part to what is now increasingly being referred to as a Global Recession by those who claim to know about such things, the price of a round-trip ticket, even at this late date on the eve of departure, would be less that the $600-700 in gasoline alone this trip is expected to cost.
So why then the rational reader might ask, would you subject yourself to a journey via such a conveyance, exposing yourself to all manner of creature discomfort as the cold; yes it will be cold after all, especially as you will spend much of the time almost 2 miles above the surface of the earth, traveling almost eight hours in marginal weather in a plane that seats only two and can barely be expected to hold those meager Christmas gifts you managed to obtain when other, other much more rational means are readily and even invitingly apparent?
I am given to introspection. I do examine, from time to time, those things that make me feel, and how they do so, and why I choose the things I choose when confronted with, or forced by circumstances to do so.
On this score I can only say – because it is simply more fun. It is more fun to choose to those things that, by God’s good grace and fates hidden hand you have, despite 2008 having not been a good year for you or many others it would seem, you still have the opportunity to do so. You have had, in the past if not in the present the means to purchase the parts and to assemble them into an airplane. An RV-4 to be exact. A plane that is much better suited to boring holes in a picture perfect sky on a bright spring afternoon that traversing half way across the country as the cold fronts march like so many ranks of infantry down the plains from Canada pivoting leftward to the coast one after seemingly another for as far as the weather maps can portray.
There are risks of course. The weather might prove too powerful. The winter winds can prove a challenge just as the METAR for KDAL reported a wind shear at only 2000 AGL of 63 knots just this morning. 63 knots is almost one and half times the stall speed of your bird in landing configuration. Something to be considered for sure. The temps might be creeping above freezing here but in just a few thousand feet above the surface are sure to fall below the threshold where any visible moisture will conspire to bring my aircraft down. But by choosing the route carefully and deviating southward as necessary the prog charts show a likely pathway to be had to the destination. The winds will mostly be on my tail (on the outbound legs at least) that, with there winter induced intensity, offer promise of even higher groundspeeds for the trip back home.
For it is home I seek. Home with all its comforts, home with familiar smells and incantations. Home to remind me that I have a cheering section to instill confidence badly shaken of late by events. And, I seek the solitude of winging high above the earth gaining perspective from the viewpoint that can only be appreciated in full by those who have done so. It will be hearth and home and the tender embrace of one who loves me and aches as much as I do in confronting challenges anew that will provide needed inspiration to carry on the fight.
But why do I post this here? There is an unburdening component no doubt. For in the telling of the tale, however disinteresting to the reader, I find resolve. And in thinking of the challenges I face I am reminded here on a daily basis, that there are thousands facing challenges much more grave, with anonymity only broken when the truly extraordinary act of bravery or the truly tragic outcome manages to extend their existence into our daily consciences.
I am flying home for Christmas this year and will enjoy Peace on my part of the Earth in no small part because of those who won’t be either home or enjoying Peace in a far away corner of the world.
God Bless them and Merry Christmas to All.