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Lessons Learned: Flying for Others Can be Better than Flying for Yourself

Flying is an interesting hobby as it is generally one that is limited in how many people you can include, but at the same time is an incredibly tight-knit, and large, community.

Unless you have the means to own a private jet or even a large twin, you are really limited to only about 2-3 other people coming along in your plane, if that.  However, fly-ins can bring together dozens, or even hundreds, of people who are passionate about flying.  Look at events like AirVenture in OshKosh where tens of thousands gather every year and it is clear that aviation is really a giant family.

Given the time of year, there have been a number of great articles talking about organizations that utilize planes to do good for others.  Ron Rapp wrote a great piece about avgeeks who are “the best” because of the charitable work that they perform using their aircraft.  Cap’n Aux also gave us a great look at individuals who opened their hearts to support others who may have personal struggles through the wonder that is aviation.

Both of these stories are great examples of the huge hearts that aviators have, and their amazing willingness to help other people.  It made me wish that I was in a better position to help in the ways that these great men have.  But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I have done at least a little good.

Just last weekend I spent about 15 hours flying during which I got essentially no training, but facilitated the training of 18 aeromedical personnel.  I have performed three such trips in the last year including one which included returning 7 wounded military members to their home states.

This week I am at Ft. Benning, GA supporting the Basic Airborne Course (look for more on this next week) which will provide the training for about 400 soldiers to get their jump wings.  This is the third time I have done that this year.

I don’t say all of this to toot my own horn, but to point out that we often overlook the good that we are doing because we consider it to be insignificant.  All I did last weekend was get the plane where we needed to go, but that allowed for training that could not have been received on the ground.

I was also the beneficiary of a generous pilot this weekend when my friend took me up in his Piper Cub for a little fun VFR flying.  It proved to be a short trip because of high winds, but it was some of the most fun flying I have ever done, and it further deepened my commitment to getting my PPL during the first of next year so that I can help others to enjoy the liberating feeling of small aircraft VFR flying.

It was a small thing to my friend, but it was a big deal to me.  Each of us avgeeks has the ability to do these great things, and I am sure most of us do them without even realizing it.

Much has been written about aviators asking others to go with them and have some fun flying, but I would like to turn the tables just a little.  I would strongly encourage anyone that is longing to get up and fly to ask any pilot you know to take you up the next time they go.  If you don’t know a pilot then head down to your local FBO and hang around for a little while.  You will inevitably make a few new friends and get that ride you have been longing for.

As I mentioned before, we aviators are really just one big family that is anxious to help our fellow aviators in any way we can.  Most pilots would love a little company when they go flying if you will only ask.  Don’t be afraid to ask because as most flyers will tell you, the stories are so much more fun when they are stories that you have shared with someone else.

November 30, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Book Review: The Last Bush Pilots by Eric Auxier

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

I know I just did a book review a couple of weeks ago, but after reading this book I just couldn’t wait to share my thoughts and feelings about it.  I have a feeling I may just keep going on and on about it so please forgive me if I do.

The Last Bush Pilots by Eric Auxier is an amazing story about a young man who ventures to Alaska to be a bush pilot in the hopes of ultimately achieving the elusive goal of becoming an airline pilot.  One of the things that immediately captured my attention with this book is how much I could relate with DC, the main character, right from the beginning.  For anyone who has dreamt of a career in flying I am sure you will find it equally as easy to relate to.

The story takes you through the ups and downs of being an Alaskan bush pilot.  It’s no wonder that Eric does such a phenomenal job of describing this life since he was a bush pilot himself at one time.  While the book is fiction, he does include a few stories that actually happened to him or those around him.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book where I felt like I was there as much as this one.

That comes in large part from the author’s ability to paint incredibly vivid pictures with words.  I could literally see myself brushing the tree tops in a Cessna 207, or hear the familiar whir of its engine as it comes to life moments before leaving the ground.  The exhilaration of flying in a small plane is something that must be experienced to fully appreciate, but this book is about as close as you can get without actually being there.

I felt like I was actually there scooting over a socked in pass, or scud running on my way back to the airport.  I found myself coming up with my own solutions to the problems the characters faced and reveling in the anticipation of what would ultimately happen to them.  The flying bug is one that bites hard and never really fades, and this book encapsulates everything that is great, and scary, about flying.

I won’t spoil any of the surprises, but Eric also digs into the harsh realities of such intense flying.  I have always loved reading books where the author is not afraid to touch on difficult subjects or to take risks in their writing, and he does just that in The Last Bush Pilots.  For anyone who flies as a profession, those risks and results are all too real, and for none more so than the bush pilots in Alaska.

What I found even more enjoyable was his ability to add humor to what is a very challenging occupation.  Granted, aviators have a knack for childish hijinks, and an inherent desire to do crazy and silly things, but he even made those aspects of the story incredibly realistic.

What was most enjoyable about this book was how much of it was actually about flying.  So many other books mention flying but are really about the stuff that happens on the ground, but in this book the risky business of Alaskan bush flying is the star.  That dangerous dance with Mother Nature that they perform on a daily basis will leave you on the edge of your seat flipping pages as fast you can.  Even if you aren’t as obsessed with flying as I am, you will find yourself entirely taken in by the author’s description of this most incredible and challenging type of flying.

As I mentioned before The Last Bush Pilots is technically fiction, but with how real Eric made it feel, it can’t be very far from reality.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in aviation, or even just in the Alaska wilderness.  It is an incredibly quick read (only three days for me) because you won’t want to put it down.  You will want to continue to immerse yourself in this dreamland of flying where the views are incredible, and the experience is indescribable.

Eric Auxier writes a fantastic blog entitled Adventures of Cap’n Aux.  He can also be found on Twitter at @capnaux.

His first book, Code Name: Dodger, is an award-winning young adult spy novel, and is on my shortlist for reading.

Both of his books can be found on Amazon in print or on the Kindle, or directly from his blog along with a personalized inscription.

Look out in the coming weeks for my next read, Flight for Control by Karlene Petitt.

November 21, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.