I heard this statement thrown around some light bar chat not too long ago. I’m not a pilot, nor am I going to pretend to be one for the remainder of this read, but it got me thinking nonetheless.
Among all the skills we’re told are essential as boys growing into men, how often does flying come up, let alone find itself in the top five? Sure, if you had to pick between how to properly polish your R.M.’s or how to fly a plane, while the latter might sounds like a better day out, it’s definitely not the most practical in any comparison on a surface level.
Or is it? Okay, spoiler, it probably isn’t, but when you start listing the essential takeaways that every man could learn from the basics skills of flying, it starts to build a compelling case for itself.
You might not want your career to be flying Dreamliners or dog fighting in F/A 18’s – that’s fine, and beside the point – flying, especially when taught at that prime, late-teens age, is one of the best skills a man can have. If you’re well past that, then consider it a cool AF lifelong retirement plan and much better than your local 18 holes every Wednesday with the lads.
As I sit here trying to recall that handful of times I took the joystick of a light aircraft, or any words of wisdom my grandfather may have passed on from his days flying bombers in the British RAF, I realise that flying is a catalyst to mastering numerous essential life skills and lessons.
You’re probably thinking of what I thought initially, the practical skills. Those who learn to fly will become experts at navigation, well-versed on meteorology, competent at physics and engineering, not to mention an ace at communications. All true, but to stop here would be a huge oversight on some of the more macro – arguably more important – lessons a young man can learn.
Responsibility is the first that comes to mind in this regard. When you’re flying a plane, be it a Cessna 127 or a bloody A380, you’re responsible for not only your own life but more importantly the lives of others. That’s one hell of a skill to learn at a prime age. While it’s statistically safer than driving a car, the gravity of your decisions (pretty proud of that pun, I must say) while flying could have much grander consequences while you’re in control of a plane.
This is fine, it just means you have to harness self-discipline and focus your attention to detail, learn patience and triple check absolutely everything that is happening around you. Think about the process of taking off from an airport. You have to tick off dozens of items before you can even get your wheels in the air, you have to wait for permission to take off, and you need to be alert, focused and steady as you taxi down the runway. There are procedures, order & responsibility.
Adapt this to everyday life. That boxing class you agreed to attend at 6am? You might actually go rather than sleep in. That report you’re about to put on your boss’ desk? You’ll have triple checked the shit out of that thing. That fella getting a bit in your face when you’re out on Saturday night? You’ll exercise patience and walk away instead of snapping and putting him on the deck because you know how consequential your actions can be.
So many of life’s crucial moments are reactionary and instinctive. If you’re trained for something to go wrong at 30,000 feet, it’ll make anything on the ground seem like a piece of cake. At the least, you won’t fall out of the sky if you fuck up. From the most menial of daily tasks to some of the biggest decisions of your life, you’ll be more confident, you’ll back yourself, and you’ll hit the mark at a much higher percentage compared to those who haven’t had the privilege of learning how to fly.
Let’s put aside the Dr. Phil self-help lessons for a moment and get a bit existential. Those who choose not only to learn how to fly but continue with it throughout their lives will get one helluva perspective on the world and life from above.
You know those moments when you’re trying to comprehend if what you’re looking at – perhaps a surreal spectacle of nature – is actually happening? That feeling you get when the world seems incredibly amazing but also scarily overwhelming? Yeah, that. You’d get that every single day, so that’d be nice.
Plus did anyone mention that being a pilot would be king? You meet a cute girl or even just a friend of a friend over beers – “What do you do with yourself?”
Next question. Now that’s fucking cool.