Oh how I miss sitting in the cockpit, taking the controls in my hands and feeling the power of the air under the wings as I sore over the landscape below. Yes, take that shocked look off your faces all of you that know about my driver’s license incident, there are no people walking around the sky and to date no humans have been injured… promise. It was always said that I’d get my private pilots license before my driver’s if not my commercial license, quite shocking I know but they seemed to think that I was a natural in the air. Perhaps it is because I have been flying alone in big planes since I was 3, perhaps it is just my love for soaring through the air, who knows but I do feel total peace when I am up there.
It all started when I first got into a motorised glider just on 19, a gift from a friend who knew my love of flying. We were flying motor in action over the mountains in my area when the pilot told me take over the controls, I remember just grinning from ear to ear, taking the controls in my hands and thinking “This is the life”. I flew the little glider out over the sea, looking everywhere the eyes could see, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had.
The big one came when I rocked up at the flying club one day to tag along on a fly-in meet (flyers fly to a different destination for a scrumptious lunch) that I had been invited to join. I was meant to go in a 6 seater with a bunch of friends when another friend pulled me aside and said he’s flying alone do I want to join him in his Cherokee 160. Guaranteed front seat who was I to turn the offer down! So we did the pre-flight checks and got in to our seats, all electronics working, headphones on we were ready to go… That was when he turned to me and said “So what are you waiting for, I’m not flying you are… think its time you get the bird in the sky don’t you or we might miss out on lunch”.
My jaw literally dropped, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I grabbed the controls before he could change his mind and he led me through what I had to do to take off, what to look out for, etc. Plane on the runway, I got her all fired up and before I knew it we were in the air flying over the rather large river at the end of the runway that I had forgotten about heading towards the distant mountains, I flew all the way to the destination, 200km over mountains and beautiful landscapes. When we almost ready to come into land I started to give over the controls and he just sat there and laughed at me “No you’re landing as well”. My jaw dropped again… landing is way way different to taking off, getting the balance of the wings, the speed right phew… I am here to tell the tale aren’t I? Yes I landed the plane without hitch and the lunch was delicious. He took off from there, handed me the controls again once in the air and I landed back at the airfield at the end of the day.
When we got back I asked him why he had let me do that, all he said was that he had heard the previous year from the pilot of the glider that I was a natural and he wanted to see for himself so had decided to test me. He told me that he agreed wholeheartedly with the glider pilot, I was a natural, he added that he was surprised by the fact that a woman could be a natural in the air, for him women were just fearful while the men took to it like ducks to water, fearless.
I was really chuffed by his comment to say the least but it also irked me that he had had to test me to see if “miracles” could happen, to see if a woman could be a natural in a preordained man’s world. The lesson of what I showed him was taught to both of us, he went on to tell everyone about the “chick” that’s a natural flyer getting himself into trouble for going against pilot code and rules by letting an unlicensed person land and take off, it didn’t stop him. The lesson for him was profound – woman are capable in a “man’s” world, we are more equal than he had ever realised and his respect for woman as a “species” has been raised, never judge a person by their sex, race or social status. He stil carries it with him, I bumped into him last month, his first words after not seeing me in close on a decade? “Hey Natural” with a big smile on his face… (Between you and me, the management has since changed at the club so we’re hoping to get back out there and into the air again).
The lesson for me?
Never let anyone else’s views or expectations of you stop you from trying something out.
Why should we allow someone else to dictate what we can and can’t do just because of our sex, our race or our social status.
Don’t let social history dictate who you are, don’t fall back on it to get ahead the easy way, fight for what you want both fairly and equally.
Number one above all else, prove to yourself not anyone else what you are capable of because at the end of the day that is all that matters…