Looking Up to Sustain a Future in Aviation

By Scott Spangler on March 9th, 2010

Sunny and 42 degrees, the saturated blue sky is the first crack in the Wisconsin winter. Planted in the driveway like a human heliotrope I turned and opened my eyes in search of honking geese and squawking sandhill cranes, pathfinders for northbound flocks. A more mechanical buzz drew my eyes eastward to the effulgent Cessna working its way west.

Look-up-Geese More than anything I wanted to be aloft with the geese and cranes, basking in the sun that warmed the Cessna’s cockpit. But with a freelancer’s income and two kids in college, for the past half decade, and for how many ears to come,  looking up is as close as I’ll get. But I’m not complaining.

The FAA counts active pilots by current medical certificates. Given the declining numbers, I’m not the only one who let mine lapse. For many of us, flying is something we do for fun, which means it comes after higher priorities, like a roof, food, and providing for the family. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t host a pity party for one on days such as this.

Look-up-contrail At least I did until I talked to Steve Wood, a pilot who divides his time between the UK and US, and who has set nearly 300 speed records over a closed course, 90 of them FAI-recognized world records. After hearing his story, I realized that what’s most important is that I still look up when a sound, especially a flying-machine-made sound, draws my eyes skyward.

Watching airplanes fly over his Yorkshire hometown is what captured and sustained Wood’s interest in aviation. “It’s not like here,” he said from his second home at Spruce Creek, a fly-in community in Daytona Beach, Florida. “There was no hanging out at the airport.” More than anything Wood wanted to fly for a living. Under the UK’s strict medical requirements, a kidney stone ended that dream in 1964.

Look-Up-CityNo matter where they may be, watching dots hum their away across a heavenly hemisphere has sustained an aficionado’s interest in aviation. In 1993 Wood had saved enough money to act of his passion and earn his private pilot certificate in San Diego. It is a sobering thought, but maybe looking up is the one true measure of anyone’s dedication to flight.

Looking up inspired and sustained the brothers Wright and others through their times between failures. Looking up seized the imaginations of terrestrial souls and ultimately drove them skyward. And it nourishes those of us now grounded for whatever reason.

In past periods of aeronautical despair I’d mourn the passing of my aerial peregrinations and whine some overwrought, bitter epitaph to an uncaring beer bottle. But no longer, thanks to the epiphany brought to light by the life of Steve Wood.

Whether past, present, or future, a pilot’s life is not measured by flight time. A pilot is born with his or her first glance skyward, and it ends when nothing tips the head back to better enable the eyes to search the sky. Looking up is what connects the time on the ground and sustains our future in aviation.–Scott Spangler


Related Posts:

3 Responses to “Looking Up to Sustain a Future in Aviation”

  1. Shopping Cart Software » Blog Archive » Looking for PHP shopping cart software recommendation? Says:

    […] Looking Up to Sustain a Future in Aviation – Jetwhine: Aviation … […]

  2. John M. White Says:

    Ever since I saw my first real airplane close up I have never been able to ignore the sound of a Pratt & Whitney piston engine, nor any other, without looking skyward.

    My medical is current, and I get to fly, not as often as I would like, but better than not at all.

    My wife is also a pilot, but has not been able to fly because she can’t get a medical at this time. Nonetheless, she always wants to go flying.

    Once it is in your bloodstream it never leaves.

    I wonder, do they have flying in Heaven? I sure hope so.

    John M. White

  3. Steve Wood: Flying for a Record Purpose - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] GlaStar, affectionately known as Goofy, for its N-number N600FY. Ive mentioned Steve before, in Looking Up to Sustain a Future in Aviation, and noted that hed set 90 world speed […]

Subscribe without commenting