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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I was driving home from the airport the other day, when I popped a CD into my car stereo that I hadn't listen to in a while. On it were a few Martin Sexton songs that brought back memories. Among them: my private pilot training, five years ago.
For a second I was transported back to those happy days in the spring of 2004 and could almost feel the slight knot in the stomach that preceded the early lessons, that mix of nervousness and eager anticipation. As I looked over my shoulder to change lanes, I caught a glimpse of one of my epaulettes and smiled. Never at the time would I have thought I'd one day be driving home to the same songs, having landed a jet just a few minutes before.
Today is my second anniversary at the airline and just like the other day, I am looking backwards, reminscing about those many adventures, the people I've met and most of all the fun and challenge that the last few years have been.
Of course, it hasn't all been easy or pleasant. But two years into my airline career, I am happy to report that the novelty hasn't worn off. I still get that giddy feeling when I settle into the cold, dark cockpit, my home away from home, a virgin canvas that in response to my moving knobs and pushing switches will soon come alive with lights and sounds. As I power the airplane up, the kid in me still gets excited to hear the APU slowly spool up then whine as it reaches 100%.
The concerto of voices on the radio, as we turn onto the taxiway, the taxi flows, the take-off briefing amid the aural chaos of today's busy airports, that phrase "Cleared for take-off," the noise and power when the throttles are advanced and down the runway we roll, the smoothness with which the jet cuts through the air, the pleasing feeling in the control column: It still makes me feel very alive.
And beyond the departure end of the runway, what awaits us? Ice? Thunderstorms? Low weather at our destination? Or simply breath-taking golden evening skies that will soon be set ablaze by a receding sun? Or maybe it's those crystalline night skies as we fly north to Halifax, when the darkness surrounding those secluded regions on out route allows us to see the stars and the Milky Way in a clarity unmatched anywhere else?
The challenges, the sheer beauty of the sky and the adrenaline-inducing machines we are fortunate enough to operate make this very simply the best job in the world.
Yes, the industry is in shambles. Yes, the pay is abysmal, for now anyway. Of course, the schedules can be horrible. But for me it is an irreversible calling and we can only hope that the airlines will one day decide to treat their pilot groups with the respect the job commands.
A few months ago, as my airline was going through a difficult period, I considered returning to a more stable line of work, which of course ruled out journalism, my orginial calling. I looked for openings, revamped my resume, labored over a cover letter. I even envisaged how life would be with more money and being home every night. But a few weeks into this I realized that only when I was on the ground did I seriously consider leaving behind the job I'd dreamed of for so long. As soon as those wheels left the runway pavement, the throughts completely vanished. "You must be mad," I'd realize. "Leave all of this behind?"
No way. I'm here to stay.


Blogger Sastre Air said...

Great post. Glad to hear there's still enjoyment in your work.

10:13 AM  

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