The Joy of Flying


At my day job flying airliners, I encounter many pilots for whom flying has sadly become a tedious demand, necessary to put bread on the table, and they’d no sooner take the controls of an airplane on a day off than they’d willingly pay more taxes. Many more might occasionally daydream about GA, but families, finances and life in general all provide adequate excuses.are some who are passionate about flying anything they can get their hands on, any time or place. I’ve mentioned one such pilot before. My friend flies B-757s to Hawaii and back many times a month. Each trip starts with a daytime flight to an island. He spends that night and most of the next day shifting his sleep, then flies a red-eye home the second night.

Not living in his domicile, most times he repeats this three-day, two-leg trip the next day. But when he’s at home, in spite of that schedule you can usually find him at our local airport. He’ll be just hanging around the airport, working on his beautiful Piper J-5A Cub Cruiser, flying it or, more likely, all three.

He might be cruising along the beach or up in the coastal hills, possibly flying in loose formation with one of the other Cubs at our airport. They always find something to do, some theme to enhance the sheer joy of taking flight.

That fun recently took the form of a Cub fly-in. Every year the non-towered airport at Lompoc, California, on the U.S. Pacific Coast just under the umbrella of Vandenberg Air Force Base, draws Cub owners sometimes from as far away as New York. They gather for three days to bask in the joy of a passion shared. The Cubs are judged for appearance, age and rarity and the pilots get to try their hand at the traditional fly-in activities of flour bombing and spot landing contests.

Mostly, though, they just gather to experience their own brand of joy together. My friend convinced me to force-fit time into my overloaded schedule to attend this year. I also enjoy GA, but I’ve long since lost the level of passion my friend has. It was a delight to wander all around the airport talking with other pilots and consider simply the skill and pleasure of operating an airplane without the distractions of high-tech gadgetry, instrument approaches and Air Traffic Control.

For many of us flying has completely become that “high-tech gadgetry, instrument approaches and Air Traffic Control” as that’s the backbone of our industry today. But with that often comes a certain drudgery, a certain sense of obligations met that can diminish or even kill the original wonderment of flight.

This fly-in helped remind me of that wonderment of flight. It was a pleasure indeed to see about a hundred Cubs dotting the sky throughout the weekend and it was truly humbling to be reminded of the reason I fly in the first place. You should try it. Perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s West Coast Cub Fly-In. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your flying, whether you’re in a 757 or a J-5A.
— Frank Bowlin


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