Neither do my kids or my neighborhood friends. That’s the conclusion I came to after inviting everyone to a movie night, to watch the general aviation video, “One Six Right”. The plan was simple. Since previous attempts to share my passion for aviation were not successful, certainly no one could resist the words and pictures of this wonderful documentary. I was surprised, but undaunted when they failed to respond to the opening scene of the DVD. As each segment unfolded before them, I searched for the spark, but it was not to be found. Soon the excuses started coming as a constant flow of traffic left the couch for some unknown task upstairs. It was clear they were not to be swayed tonight.

Why do some people get the bug and others do not? I thought back to my early childhood. There was no connection to aviation whatsoever. Yet the desire to be a pilot was strong. I remember writing to Cessna sometime back in the 60s, asking them to send information about their planes.

 

When the brochures arrived in the mail, I opened it to see my first centerfold – the instrument panel. With gauges filling both pages, it was easy to imagine sitting behind the controls. The brochure was laid on the bedspread. With hands under chin and elbows planted firmly on the bed, the dials came alive, bringing my fantasy to life. The view outside the cockpit didn’t matter. It was all about the instruments and being in control of this very special vehicle.

That was over 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday. Where my passion came from, I cannot say. It started prior to my first airplane ride; an American Airlines Electra flight from Chicago to Buffalo sometime in the early 60’s. That flight only heightened the passion. It was clear to the crew as well, with the flight attendant commenting about how my forehead was affixed to the window and the captain made sure I made a stop in the cockpit before leaving the aircraft. I was definitely hooked.

The dream was put on hold until my arrival at the University of Iowa. With no aviation related curriculum or extra money, flying lessons were tough to come by. Perseverance paid off as I received an offer to be a lineman at the local airport, and arranged for a “college loan”. Flying most days, even if it meant only two or three touch and go’s during lunch, resulted in earning my private pilot license and an outlet for my need to aviate. I also washed planes for the salesman, who would let me fly an aircraft to it’s new owner or ferry it for maintenance.

It was then the differences between people became noticeable. There were “plane” people and “non-plane” people. Non-plane types met at bars, dorms and athletic events. Plane people were always at the airport. We would meet morning, noon and night to take in the atmosphere and share dreams of flight, or to hear stories from the experienced flight instructors and charter pilots. These discussions would take place in the FBO, in an aircraft sitting on the ramp, or even while staring at a starry sky, while lying down on a non-active runway (I didn’t say we were smart).

As my college days came to a close, several obstacles drained my wallet and made flying a secondary priority. I found another passion however…my family; and did not look back.

About 5 years ago, 25 years since I stopped flying, one of my employees asked if I wanted to go up in his Skyhawk. As we drove to the airport, I was surprised that I wasn’t feeling the excitement. If anything, there was anxiety as we climbed aboard his 30 year old Cessna. Was he a good pilot? Was the plane maintained? Was this safe?

Sitting in the right seat, I scanned the panel. It looked so familiar (except for the GPS). It was like the brochure that made up my fantasies so many years before. As we rotated off the runway and climbed out to the north, my gaze moved between the instruments and the view outside. Both were beautiful. I was disappointed when we headed back home. At the end of our short 45-minute flight, I felt my passion had been reignited with the same intensity I felt as a young man.

Within days, the medical was renewed, a flight school selected and I started down the road to currency. Since then I have earned my instrument ticket and fly almost every week. It is tough to think about anything other than flying.

Today, I have flying buddies and non-flying buddies. My cell phone has a different ring tone for each. If the phone rings “Fly Like An Eagle”, I find a way to answer it. After all, it might be a chance to go flying, or at least do some “hangar flying”.

It is clear that showing “One-Six Right” or sharing a flight is not going to ignite the passion in non-plane people. You either have the spark or do not. It may go dormant at some point in your life, but it is always there, waiting to be rekindled.

Those that have it are members of a very special community. Did you ever notice the word Community is made up of two root words, COMMON UNITY? It is that which binds us together. Some have it and some do not. I am one of the lucky ones.

 

Marc Epner is an instrument rated private pilot who earned his rating in 1976. After a 25 year hiatus, Marc rekindled his love of aviation in 2004 and has become a part owner of a SR-22. Marc looks for opportunities to be an advocate for general aviation through presentations, writing and flying.