January again. When I was young my parents tried to explain that, as they got older, time seemed as if it were accelerating. It made no sense to me then but now it is all too real. At the beginning of each year, we usually stop to reflect on what we have, what we need or want and the general state of the world around us. What each of us has, living in Canada, is quite extraordinary and includes an amazing space to fly in. Well, taking stock and making plans for the year – sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me.
A time honoured tradition filled with great intentions but also often abandoned ideas that we give up on because of the cost in effort or time. It may be appropriate to make our resolutions more like a good cross country flight rather than making our flights more like our New Year’s resolutions. My resolutions are often lofty ideals expressed in terms that are almost impossible to live up to. Hmmm, not unlike planning on winds and weather based on wishful thinking rather than on cold hard facts. Of course, resolutions are typically founded on a desire to be a better person and that idea translates well into planning with a view to be a better pilot. In fact, we really all know what makes a good flight plan or resolution but, it is human nature to wish for our goals to be perfect..
If only losing weight were as easy as following a checklist for weight and balance and fuel required. It actually is, however, the consequences are not so obvious and can be rationalized away on the basis of a one time tiny slip. On the other hand, what’s a couple of pounds here or there loading a Cessna. We know our craft can fly a smidge heavy, especially in the beautiful cold air of winter. How important it is for our diet to remember the cumulative consequences of indulging. That easily translates to the seductive incentive to fly increasingly overweight after a few successful “heavy” flights. Limits are intentionally conservative to allow a margin of safety on those occasions where sudden extremes or unusual conditions exist. So, watching weight and balance, especially in regards to fuel which is the main factor that changes during a flight, is not unlike keeping track of your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Does one small tip of the scale to over limits imply immediate doom? Not necessarily, but it is definitely a big red warning light that we must pay attention to.
So, if wishful thinking is not appropriate for flight planning and therefore, by the terms of this argument, New Year’s resolutions, is there no room for dreaming bigger and raising the bar. While budgeting resources within your means is an important fundamental, so is growth and learning. A great resolution may include new challenges or learning new skills but should be in incremental steps within the context of common sense. In other words, not going from pedalling a tricycle to driving a formula 1 race car without a bunch of intermediate steps.
Indeed, it makes great sense to plan for expanding skills and experience on a permanent, ongoing basis. I have so much more to learn about flying and am reluctant to fly with any pilot who believes they have nothing left to learn. That might be something as straightforward as adding a new rating to your licence or planning an adventure flight that brings the opportunity for new experiences. A good example of such an opportunity is coming up soon enough, and that is the Lac La Biche fly-in in early March, landing on a temporary ice runway cleared off the lake.
Bucket list suggestions? Do get a mountain endorsement and then think about a trip like flying up the Nahanni river. First, you’ll want to go to Fort Simpson, basically on the way to the far north. The Nahanni wilderness area is a pristine and primitive area going into mountains. The river is magnificent and is home to Virginia Falls, the third highest waterfall in North America. The mountains are truly beautiful and generally low enough that you can fly over them in a Cessna if you wish. Of course, being closer to the river is amazing.
Our personal perspectives and values are most definitely affected by our flying experiences, just as our flying habits reflect our personal behaviour patterns. Using one to improve the other is a wonderful circle of benefit and enjoyment. Flying is such an amazing privilege and I hope you all respect and enjoy it as much as I do!