The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on the past, but also to look forward to new objectives to aim for. I am reflecting in this post, and restarting to publish on this blog as a New Year resolution, hopefully one to keep!
I remember a time, on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, I was sitting outside at the Rockcliffe airport in a confortable chair by the gazebo, and reflecting on friends who had passed by, missing my friend Joe. We’ve spent a good chunk of time there chatting away about flying. After a flight or just for the fun of spending time at his long-time home airport. I have many memories of aviation stories he has told me over the years in his own special humour. I enjoyed listening to all of his stories.
Memories also of many flying activities that I attended like: air rally, fly-ins, girls fly-day, Young Eagle, etc. Either as a participant, air marshaller, organiser, or pilot. Joe had seen many aviator enthusiasts come and go, and it is now my turn to watch them. Witness either their ascent into the world of aviation as a career to be respected and humbled by, or as a privileged hobby cherished by many. I’m one of many witnesses to see them grow their skills, and persevere. Or fall back, and move away from it for different reasons.
The pandemic has shaken many in countless ways. Aviation was turned upside down, from being in a state of urgency to train pilots, to shutdown, layoffs, and so much uncertainty about the future that it is easy to be discouraged and change your mind about such a career. Prospects for a near or long term career were grim for many, and whom have decided to move away from flying, either commercial students or already career pilots. Now the future is looking very bright again, so the cycle of aviation keeps on rolling. Aviation requires of us all a true passion for our craft. A passion not appreciated enough for all the sacrifices that it demands to have any kind of success. Perhaps movies have glamourized too much the job of a pilot.
Being a career pilot is more than being passionate about flying, it’s choosing a lifestyle. One which requires perpetual learning, introspection, humility, perseverance and sacrifices. We work hard, have a load of responsibilities, have to stay up-to-date with our knowledge and skills, and often for a long time with little pay, and appreciation. All dependant on our ability to maintain a medical certificate otherwise: we pretty much lose it all.
The journey is hard, but still worth it to my opinion. We, aviators, are building memories that will last us a life-time. We live adventures many are only dreaming about. Joe had a large repertoire of stories to tell from his wide and diversified experiences within the aviation world. He loved to share them, and it is something we had in common. Our discussions often yawed towards adventures he had with the airforce as a navigator, as a flight instructor with different students who kept him sharp with their “surprises”, or how he maintained airplanes by flying to different farmer’s field.
We, aviators, have a privilege that is wonderful. As the Italian Gabriele D’Annunzio rhapsodized: “Until now I have never really lived! Life on earth is a creeping, crawling business. It is in the air that one feels the glory of being a man and of conquering the elements. There is the exquisite smoothness of motion and the joy of gliding through space.” And Glenn Curtiss said it well in the early 1900: “There is a fascination about flying that it is unnecessary to explain and difficult to resist.” (*See note 1.)
Lynsey Howell, in a Tedx talk published on Youtube , explained interestingly the key to becoming a successful women pilot (which I think could also very well apply to men), are the following:
- Confidence (fake it till you make it);
- Face your fears;
- Having a support system.
Having the desire to become a pilot, to fly, to travel the world to exotic places with a cool airplane is simply not enough. Money is obviously an important factor, but when there is a will, there is a way. A strong will power is key: your attitude determine your altitude.
Rockcliffe Flying Club, was my employer for 4 years, and is going through a crisis, which means all employees living through it as well. This brought me to seek other opportunities which lead me to accept a new role at Select Aviation College in Gatineau. I’m fairly certain this won’t be the last time I will be going through a difficult time in my career. Difficult times can bring opportunities for those open to change, and with the right mindset. Learning to cope with it is also part of being a professional pilot. How we intertwine ourselves with the community is helpful. We each have our part to play. Be it small, or big.
In my new role, I get the chance to speak with many more aspiring pilots. Most of them young – 16 though 25 on average. They are all eager to take on a big challenge, and for many have been dreaming of flying airplanes since childhood looking up in the blue sky. Their eagerness is definitely a plus in their hands, but they will need much more to make it. Their true nature will rise up and grow as they mature in their flight training if they are to make it successfully.
I have also accepted an invitation to join the board of directors for the Quebec pilots’ association (Aviateurs Québec, previously known as APBQ). A way for me to give back to a community that has already offered me so much.
The year 2023 looks like it will bring me great new challenges and opportunities to give back, but also to keep on learning. I’m definitely excited about it.
After 10+ years of flying, I still feel a strong passion for aviation. I know that it is a very rewarding career, although a though one. Would love to hear your experience starting in aviation, and continuing on this beautiful adventure!
*Note 1: from the book Glenn Curtiss: Pioneer of Flight by C.R. Roseberry.