One thing you never want to do is give me a book to review. I read them quickly, but often take forever to getting around to telling people what I thought of the experience, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the review … at least from the stance of the author. And I ought to know, I’ve written a few books myself. Tardiness of writing has little to do with the quality of the books I read, certainly not this one.
My cohort in crime Scott Spangler told me about this book – Artful Flying by Michael Maya Charles and Artful Publishing – with the comment that he often finds himself rereading the volume from time to time. Now I understand why Scott spends time with a book he’s already read. After I finished Artful Flying, I realized I’d pretty much destroyed the volume for anyone else because I’d marked the thing up by underlining sentences and using a yellow marker in places to remind me of why I enjoyed a particular chunk of text.
Artful Flying will bust your chops if you’re simply an airplane driver because it talks to readers about the philosophy of flying the way the old guys – and girls – used to do it. No, the physics of flying hasn’t really changed, but the art of flying has, at least in the sense that flying as an art seems to have a lot of its luster over the past 20 years.
Michael Maya Charles talks not simply to how to fly, but how to smoothly finesse an aircraft – any aircraft – with the skill of an airman who is never satisfied with pretty good. An artful flyer is someone who is in the never ending struggle for perfection, much like an ice skater, a painter or even a NASCAR driver.
Artful Flying isn’t so much about learning a specific technique as it is about attaining aviation nirvana, a Zen state of sorts in the manner a pilot flies the airplane itself during the process. It’s about never settling for just OK. In Michael Maya Charles’ words, “Raising your flying to a level where it was artful, where it becomes an art form – your art form – requires engagement, full participation, a commitment. In other words, it requires YOU.”
I found Charles’ explanation of the beginner’s mind truly intriguing. This is a time early in a pilot’s experience when “it’s OK to wonder, fine to question and acceptable to not understand.” The key, as Charles sees it is to allow yourself to experience flying as a young child might experience something new, with vigor and curiosity. Kids learn from their mistakes without embarrassment, or at least not nearly as much as adults might experience. Adults are a bit more wound up.
A little practical example of the Artful Flying attitude came to me clearly a few weeks ago when I took the left seat of the giant Airbus A380 in Toulouse for a few full stop taxi backs to get used to the machine. The A380 is a digital airplane with no direct hydraulic control of any surface so even this machine – at 850,000 lbs. – was easy to fly.
On the first arrival the landing was smooth but off center. In fact, I landed about six feet to the left of the centerline. That bothered me. Next time around I was smack dab down the middle. I knew Michael Maya Charles would be pleased because he sees flying with the vision of an artist, something always in need of practice and yet something that can’t be forced to perfection.
“Artful Flying becomes a mirror of ourselves, a compilation of our attitudes toward life, work and art,” Charles says. “Flying, like art is a very personal relationship to something that only you have spent a life examining. We learn a lot about ourselves when we practice Artful Flying for a long time. We begin to see the connections between our flying and other areas of our lives. Sure our flying becomes smoother, more refined, more relaxed … more artful. Perhaps so do we.”
Christmas is still six months away, but for the diehard aviator – or aviator wannabe – I can’t think of any better way to reward them with stories of how to be more than simply a driver of airplanes than a copy of Artful Flying. Best $35 you can spend. And if you buy a copy from the website and ask nice, I’ll bet you the author might autograph the copy for you. Befitting the author of this valuable volume, Michael wrote in my copy, “To Rob. A true connoisseur of fine whine!”
I wish you a good journey.