23 August 2006

The Grandest of Canyons

The Grandest of Canyons
Copyright 2006 V1VrV2

I feel fortunate to be able to regularly fly over some of the most specacular scenery anywhere. This photo was taken from only 20,000 feet over the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We were able to talk Los Angeles Center into a medium-altitude "canyon tour," something our passengers greatly enjoyed. Here, easterly winds are pushed up vertically along the rim of the canyon, forming a distinct line of clouds.

17 August 2006

Silver Lining

Silver Lining
Copyright 2006 V1VrV2

I seem to have taken a lot of photos featuring rainbows lately. I thought you might like this one. Seen recently near Denver, the rainbow underneath this storm near Denver seemed to be reassuring us that friendlier skies were coming soon.

15 August 2006

Happiness Formula

Biplane and Rainbow
Rainbow's Promise
Copyright 2006 V1VrV2

What would you do if you could truly free your mind from its own limitations and reservations? Instead of taking small, tentative steps toward happiness, constantly questioning whether you truly deserve the joy you seek, imagine taking charge of your psyche and creating happiness out of thin air.

Is this possible? Are we capable of programming ourselves for positive thoughts? I believe we are.

It has taken me 41 years to learn the first, faint glimmers of the secret. I have no formal procedure for attaining it, and I have no patent on the concept. I only know some of the elements that seem to work for me. My discovery took place over the past four years, during some pretty difficult times.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about the career turmoil that many airline employees have faced in this age of terrorism, soaring fuel costs, and companies that reward the top 50 managers but not the "line" professionals who actually do the work and make the sacrifices. The airline industry chaos goes on today. Companies enter and exit bankruptcy with disorienting regularity. Pay cuts, labor strife, poor work rules, fatigue, loss of pensions, and shrinking benefits are enough to make even die-hard aviation lovers like me question my decision to fly for a living. Flying airplane has always been my life’s highest calling, but the changes I experienced since 2001 were demoralizing, to say the least. I admit that I became depressed. I fought to find a way through it and, after a while, latched onto some helpful remedies.

I discovered that maintaining a consistently high happiness level, for me, involves such things as limiting my exposure to negative people and negative influences such as television and the "Hollywood" culture; keeping my home (mostly) neat and clean; eating healthy food as much as possible; getting good sleep; taking time to look at and appreciate the beautiful things of this world; keeping in touch with good friends; slowing down and enjoying experiences instead of rushing through them; making some time each day to do at least one thing I really like doing; and honestly trying to be myself in everything I do. These actions and philosophies may sound very pedestrian, but many of them were missing from my life at the time. Each one was only a minor challenge to implement, but their cumulative effect brought me out of the gloom.

Most important of all, I discovered (or re-discovered) a physical place that has the ability to quickly remove negative influences in my life. It exists as a smooth, mowed field of grass, far from the hustle and bustle of controlled airports with fences and security gates. It is not a specific airfield; it is one of many places where aviation is still what it used to be. It is a place of contrasts -- of peaceful stillness punctuated by roaring engines; a place of light reflecting off glistening wings and fuselage surfaces that beg to be photographed or painted; a place where a stranger can become a good friend, instantly and forever, simply because of a shared passion. It is a place of excitement and occasional awe. It is a Sunday picnic under a wing, a traveling flying circus, a quiet glider flight in the still air of pre-dawn, a gaggle of Lusombes dropping in for pancakes, a solitary homebuilder sanding the wooden ribs of what will be his finest aerial creation; an approving thumbs-up from an old-timer who happened to see your crosswind landing. It is, simply, a small, old-time country airport.

They still exist. Some, like Wisconsin's
Pioneer Airport, are smack-dab in the middle of the most unlikely places. Others, like Flabob Airport in California and Creve Coeur Airport in Missouri, have sacrificed some or all of their grass runways for asphalt, but still retain nearly all the other qualities necessary to inclusion in a list of therapeutic airfields. I grew up near, worked at, and flew from a lovely little country airport in Pennsylvania called New Garden. It was place with plenty of dream-inspiring airplanes, fascinating people, and memorable flying experiences to be had -- and it still is.

I now live at an airfield in Illinois called
Poplar Grove, where I'm often awaken on Saturday mornings by the blissful sound of a round engine (or two or three) overhead. There are no fences around our runways. No swipe-cards are required to gain access. Kids on bicycles can pedal over to the flight office after school and watch the airplanes, just like kids on bicycles should.

As long as there are airfields like this, I'll have a refuge from many of the cares of the world. My memberships in AOPA and EAA, whose staff members work tirelessly in Washington to defend General Aviation, are becoming my most important investments.

Happiness, for me, will never be found in a bottle, a pill, a sitcom, or a stuffy social club. All I need is a place where aviation dreams take flight. I hope you have a place like this in your life.

More importantly, I hope you’ll explore your inner ability to change your thought processes. Happiness really is in the wiring of our minds and, as such, can be re-connected. I’m living proof.