Don't Take Flying for Granted

From NAFI's Chair

Don't Take Flying for Granted

287 days ... A little over three-quarters of a year. That's how long it had been between my logbook entries since I grounded myself last summer. When I wrote two weeks ago about having regained my medical, I thought that was the major milestone. I was mistaken. The real milestone was pre-flighting an aircraft for the first time in months, realizing that I would be flying it in a few moments, with a CFII who I had trained so I could regain my currency, but more importantly, ensure that any surface rust I had acquired while grounded would be polished off. It is wonderful to have a flight review, instrument proficiency check, and night landings now in my logbook.

This was my first encounter with an involuntary lay off from flying. Frankly, I was worried that July 11, 2018 would be my last time as someone who could be solely responsible for a flight. I'd always felt bad for pilots in that position, but never really felt empathy, because it hadn't happened to me. Now I know. And I've gained new respect and understanding for my late mentor, Rick, when he was grounded by cancer. It is clearer than ever to me how much he missed teaching students at all levels.

For those of you who have not been through something similar, this is my small attempt at asking you to understand when an instructor or pilot tells you that they can no longer fly. This was more than just a loss of livelihood for me, for Rick, or anyone else who is passionate about aviation and teaching. This is a stifling of a part of our identities. It is painful, and in many ways, debilitating. It is one thing to give something up voluntarily, it is quite another to have it taken away.

For those of you with a condition that has grounded you, take heart. First, do what the physicians tell you to do. Second, get the best advice you can about fulfilling the requirements of being able to fly again. Third, be optimistic, even if you force yourself like I did. A positive attitude does wonders. I have another good friend who was taken ill with a serious cardiac infection just before his retirement flight from a major airline. He'll be flying and instructing again shortly, partly because he followed the proper treatment regimen, but more because he decided that he wasn't done yet.

Finally, don't forget that we are very, very fortunate to do what we do. Regardless of any regulatory issues, we have to be in good health to fly, even if it's only healthy enough to fly with another qualified pilot. Don't take the time you have to share your passion for flight for granted.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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