We’re lucky to be able to fly.
Every time I fly I know it and grin about it and promise myself I’ll never ever forget it.
Yes, there was more than just luck of course – we all worked hard at it, and often we scrimped and saved and gave up other things to be able to do it, but somewhere there was luck.
Whether luck in the grand scheme of things to be born into a time where flight is commonplace and within the reach of the ordinary person, or in having the financial security and means to do it (however ‘only just’ and on the rackety edge that might be!), and having friends and family who support us in it.
Luck played a part. And somewhere so did something more. All us can point to someone who helped us. Someone who gave of their time and energy and often their aircraft and fuel to help us on the way.
Perhaps it was the person who first took us flying, or who thought “I bet so-and-so would like a trial flight”, or a pilot when we were learning who showed us how to do something that was hard, or gave us the spare seat when they flew and reminded us what it was we were working towards as we flogged around the circuit for the millionth time.
Maybe they just said, “You can do it – I used to struggle with that bit too.”
And we no doubt said “Thank you” nicely at the time. Maybe we paid the landing fee or bought the cake, or chipped in for fuel.
And yet none of that quite seems enough for enabling us to fly. Really fly and have the delight and freedom and joy of it. Not really. What sort of thank you, what sort of payback is enough for letting us fly?
Drifting around the sunset sky on a summer evening might cost a can of fuel – but that’s not what it’s worth.
We can’t pay back what the gift of flight is worth, but there is something we can do instead.
We can share it. We can give someone else that opportunity that was given to us.
Which is why you’ll often find me enthusing about the youth aviation events I help with. Usually on the ground. Funds mean that I’m rarely current enough to meet the safety rules for flying the youngsters, but somehow that doesn’t matter because I still see the massive grins they arrive down with, the nerves beforehand and the delight afterwards.
Case in point, this week’s Bader Brave’s event at Haverfordwest.
These young people arrived with more challenges than usual with a range of disabilities but all of them met them with courage and patient effort.
Indeed, the ones who start out nervous are the most delightful because they are so triumphant afterwards – they did something which scared them and they didn’t think they could do and they did it anyway and it turned out they could do it and in fact they loved it. What could be more inspirational for any young person in any field of endeavour?
I can’t name a highlight.
Perhaps it was the lad who’d almost almost let nerves and doubt convince himself that he couldn’t or didn’t want to do it, but plucked up from courage and strength and helped get himself aboard the lovely old Cub and by all accounts spent the flight chatting away and asking clever, relevant questions.
Or the young lad who was deaf and whose sister signed for their whole family with perfect aplomb and taught me to sign ‘aeroplane’.
Or the excited girl whose nervous mother was so doubtful that her daughter would be able to wait her turn but who spent the wait zipping up and down the field in one of the vintage vehicles by the name of Miss Daisy.
My sense of the ridiculous was piqued by the fact I nearly got run-away-with a motorised wheelchair whose owner manoeuvred it like a go-cart – I’d have failed the differences training on that one!
Good humour ran through the day and the weather was kind enough to let those awaiting their flight wait and watch and picnic in the garden of the airfield cafe.
I finished the day sunburned and tired and croaking from calling instructions over the sound of props and engines but so contented.
And perhaps just a little bit less in karmic debt to all those who’ve helped me fly…