Sunday, February 14, 2010


Happy Valentines Day! I hope someone makes you feel loved today, tomorrow, and every day after that. This is a squishy post, you are forewarned...

I have loved airplanes all my life. When I was a young boy in Tanzania, I'd sit on my parent's shoulders, point at the skies and identify the big planes as they were coming in to land at the airport. DC-9! Lockheed Tristar! DC-3! I fingerpainted pictures of airplanes long before I could read and write. My mom has saved some, presumably in case I ever become famous and they become valuable :)

I love lots of little things about flying, like the smell of hot jet fuel, or watching a meteor burn across the sky at night from 37,000'. I love the sound of a pop can opening because it reminds me of being a kid on a Wardair 747 , flying across the Atlantic to visit my grandparents in Ireland, and absolutely intoxicated with the sense of power that "Can I get you another Coke?" from a flight attendant conveys to a small boy, especially one who wasn't allowed to drink pop unless while on vacation. I love easing the power levers forward and being pushed into my seat while the plane accelerates down the runway. I love thrust reversers and beta range. I love rotating belly beacons and overhead cockpit switches. I love bleed air heat. I love landing at around 9pm on a summer night, during that short window when it's getting dark but you can still see everything. I love crisp sheets in a nice hotel at a warm destination in January. I love strobe lights on the wings and tail, lots and lots of strobe lights. I love coming home to Lisa and smooching her cheeks while she giggles and squirms. I kind of hate getting dressed up in my pilot outfit, but I love that I look like a professional when I do. I love getting together with a group of pilots and telling stories, enjoying the camaraderie that can only come with sharing intense experiences. I love hearing "The passenger has changed the departure time from midnight tonight to 9am tomorrow" (I heard that last Wednesday). I love arriving after a storm has passed through the airport and the skies are clear, with scary thunderheads beating each other to death off in the distance as they move further away. I love flying over big highways at night and watching the rivers of light move across the ground. I love that my job occasionally takes me to Vancouver for a few days, so I can go to Nanaimo and hang with my mom. I love when passengers, Customs agents and bosses are all in good moods at the same time.

And I love certain specific airplanes...

At my first job, I fell madly in love with the first airplane I was ever Captain on, a Beech Baron (C-GICM), also known as India Charlie Harley due to the sound the engines made at idle. She was a short Baron with upgraded engines that added 50 hp and increased the rate of climb to 3,000 feet per minute on a cold day. When I pushed the throttles forward it felt like pulling the trigger on a railgun, and for the first 50 hours or so, I was all "Whoah Nelly!", unsure if I was up to the challenge of handling a beast like the 55 Baron. Hardly anything worked on her - the panel was VFR only (if even that), and she was held together with speedtape and frayed lockwire, but she had the heart of a lion, and she sounded like the end of the world when I ran the engines up to full power. I also flew the Piper Navajo and Navajo Chieftain, and they were pretty cool - I really liked the overhead switches in the cockpit - but it wasn't love like it was with India Charlie Harley.

At my second job, I met C-GPAA, a Beech 58 Baron. I bonded with her at a fundamental level, flew her for 4 years and cried when the company went under and she got sold to an Israeli arms dealer (for real) living in Long Island. Yeah, I'm emo.

At my third job, I met the Mitsubishi MU-2. People who have flown the MU-2 tend to be a sharply divided group - I'm in the group of people who think it's an absolutely amazing machine that's built like a tank, and can do 300 knots while flying into 3,000' ice-covered gravel strips. This love affair was a bit one-sided - though I loved the airplane (and respect it like no other), she wasn't that into me and she made it clear that she'd happily end my life if I neglected her or pissed her off, much like that Wiccan girl I dated about 15 years ago. That's okay, not all love stories involve reciprocation and I don't mind being unrequited once in a while, as long as I don't get totally shot down. Bah, that last line sounded a lot more clever in my mind that on the screen, but I'm working on a deadline (Valentine's Day pilot blogging post is traditionally done on Valentine's Day, at least that's what Aviatrix tells me) so it stays.

At my current job, I met the Cessna Citation 550 light jet. She's happy to be airborne, which I'll admit was a refreshing change from the occasionally bitchy MU-2. I love the fact that she takes me above the weather, and she keeps me warm, and she takes me to lots of cool destinations where I can pretend to live like a rich person for a few days at a time. I'm not gonna lie - I love the fact that I'm a qualified Captain on her, but that's more a reflection of my own crippling vanity than anything to do with her. I think she loves me back a little bit - she's never left me stranded anywhere, and she's never chucked a fit while flying. Like a magical flying pony almost, she does her job without complaint, and is generally patient and understanding when I make a mistake.

But of course all of this pales in comparison to the biggest gift that aviation has given me, one that I can never repay. I met the my beautiful bride Lisa at the airport and I'll always be profoundly grateful for that gift. I love flying, but Lisa is my life.

What do you love?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010