I once had a dream, a dream to fly.
It was late 1989, I had been driving transport trucks for about six years and was ready for a change. I was getting burnt out from the long trips, I hadn't taken a vacation in, well, ever, during that part of my life. It was all work, work, work. I was tired of it, the long hours, the loneliness, the boredom.
I had always liked aviation, like any kid, but it seemed unobtainable. Then, on a whim, I went for a discovery flight. My eyes were opened! I was going to become a commercial pilot! I was able to get a student loan for the $4500 private pilot course, which is the first step to a commercial license, and I was enrolled in flight school. I logged my first training flight on September 24th, 1989! My dream was taking off.
At the beginning I was taking this very seriously. Then things started to slide. I was going through a rough time personally. I was beginning to drink a little too much, not committing enough to studying, not focusing. In retrospect I would say it was a major depressive episode. I had no one to talk to about it either. But I kept at it, slowly.
Then the day came for my pre-flight test. This is the test where the chief flight instructor takes you for a flight test to see if you are ready for the actual Transport Canada flight test. It was a disaster! I was out late the night before, drank way too much and probably got no sleep at all. I should really have cancelled, but I went. I was in all likely hood still intoxicated. At that time in my life, that was normal.
I am sure, no, I know the flight instructor knew what condition I was in. I think he even asked if I wanted to cancel, I said no, let's do it. Things went ok, for a while. I was doing ok for the first part of the test, then things started to fall apart... quickly. The instructor started pushing me harder and harder until I couldn't cope with it any more. My concentration was gone, I had no idea where we were, couldn't do simple math, nothing. I was a mess. The instructor cut the test and took us back to the airport. It was a very long and quiet flight back.
When we landed and parked the plane at the hanger I started to get out. He said, "stop. close the door." Then he let into me like no one ever did before or since. I don't remember the exact words now, but I remember the moment, and I remember how I felt afterwards. It was a good talking to, he was fair, and right when he told me I had to get myself figured out and decide what I wanted to do.
I sat there in the little Cessna 152 on the tarmac, a little numb from the 'lesson' I had just received. It was one of those 'defining moments' we are sometimes fortunate to have, but don't know we need.
After that day I doubled my effort. I studied harder than I ever did, worked hard on correcting my behaviour, and about two weeks later I did another pre-flight test, with a different instructor this time. Some gaps in my flying knowledge were found, and patched up. About a week after that it was Transport Canada test time!
A flight test is about an hour and a half long, and can be pretty demanding. I did all the manoeuvres in relative silence. After it was all done we headed back to the airport. I had no idea how I had done, the tester was giving no indication if I had passed or not. When we got back he asked for my log book. There was a big THUD on the counter as he stamped my book, and he looked at me and gave me a big smile and said congratulations, you are a pilot! That was April 7th, 1991.
I only flew a handful of times after that day, my dream of becoming a commercial pilot were never realized. Life can be like that.
Fast forward 28 years. Yes, it was 28 years ago this September that I started flight training, and I hope to start again in a couple of weeks. With the words of the CFI in my mind, I'm hitting the books again, visualizing my pre-flight inspection, taxi and take off procedures, spin and spiral dive recovery, navigation, landing, and of course all the radio calls to air traffic control. It's all coming back to me, and I'm excited to relearn how to fly again.
I know the dream of being a commercial pilot is long gone for me now, but the dream of flying has never left, and just to fly around our little island will be enough for me... for now, anyway.
(Plus I am too old to drink that much, or to stay up much past 9:00pm anymore!)
1989 was also the year that a little 8 week old puppy came into my life. It was in October, a month after I began flying. I went to the Winnipeg Humane Society 'just to look'. Well, my heart was taken the moment I looked at her. I paid $60 on Visa for her and she came home with me that day. She had a tattoo in her ear - YA847. I named her Zulu, her full name was Yankee Alpha Zulu. She was with me for 16 years, I still miss her.
She was the best dog ever.
1989 - 2005