I look back, now, and I know that the naming moment, which seemed so insignificant then, which seemed to demand no more than an arbitrary and superstitious yes or no, was in fact a pivotal moment in my life. – Gregory David Roberts
I remember the day when a series of quiet pivotal moments occurred, opening adventures I never expected. It was a trip to western Kansas with a colleague in his Beechcraft Bonanza. We were to speak to a group of high school students about air traffic control as a career. The weather was overcast with possible embedded thunderstorms. Although both the aircraft and pilot were certified for these flight conditions, I was nervous.
As a twenty year air traffic control veteran, I was more than familiar with these conditions. I had even been a passenger in large commercial aircraft in these conditions, but never in a small single engine aircraft. The aircraft did not have weather radar, so we would rely on ATC for advisories regarding any thunderstorms.
I was not yet a pilot, but helped from the right seat with map reading, radio work and as a second set of eyes on the instruments. The pilot did not need my help, but it kept be focused on something other than the butterflies in my stomach. The one hour and a half flight was smooth, although we were in the clouds the entire route. Flying along in this tiny airborne bubble was both cozy and creepy.
Quiet Pivotal Moment Number One
At the destination, my friend executed a flawless full VOR approach to minimums. I felt elated and relieved when we broke out of the clouds, lined up on the runway centerline for a smooth landing. I breathed deeply as we stepped out onto the tarmac.
The presentation at the school was received well. During our time at the school, the weather cleared. We arrived back at the airport to clear sunny skies, calm winds and a fully fueled aircraft. As we approached the Beechcraft blue Bonanza, my friend, the pilot and certified flight instructor, told me to take the pilot’s seat. I was to fly the plane home!
Quiet Pivotal Moment Number Two
A new kind of nervous, I strapped into the left seat and followed his instructions. This was a great honor. We ran the checklist and I followed step by step start-up, taxi and run-up directions. We taxied onto the runway, took-off and headed for home. The skies were a glorious after-the-storm blue. There was a tailwind and the ride again was smooth.
An hour later we contacted Wichita Approach control requesting to land runway 19 left. As we crossed midfield for a left downwind, my friend talked me through the visual landing process. Gas Undercarriage Mixture Profile Switches and Seatbelts (GUMPSs) checks complete, we turned final, flared, landed and rolled out.
Quiet Pivotal Moment Number Three
“Keep flying the plane. Don’t stop just because you are one the ground” was a piece of wisdom I use to this day. My heart was racing, adrenaline surging as I taxied to parking. I was grinning ear-to-ear. I was jumping for joy inside, while remaining focused on the task at hand. Shut-down complete, I resolved then and there to become a pilot. I left that morning a passenger, I returned a student pilot. I felt excited but had no clue as to the adventures that lie ahead:
- Becoming a pilot,
- aircraft restoration and ownership,
- Private piloting in several countries,
- hangar home owner
- aircraft builder
Three Ways Quiet Pivotal Moments Come
- Quietly. I did not recognize that the seed planted decades ago during my first encounter with flight, was getting a significant watering at that moment, but it was.
- Unexpectedly. Hiding behind nerves and the perceived risk of the situation, was the unexpected gift of my friend, of letting me taste for myself, the rush of piloting an aircraft. Not simply riding as a passenger, which in and of itself is glorious, but holding the forces of lift, gravity, drag and thrust in one’s own hands.
- Joyfully, Lurking under the mental focus, the reality of bringing a flying object safely into contact with earth is the joy of conquest. Conquest of one’s own fears and nature herself. Even for a moment, riding above all preciously known reality. There is joy in that.
This piece, Quiet Pivotal Moments, originally drafted in a free write with the Write Spot on July 14, 2022, from the prompt: I felt…..
This and other methods for getting your story(ies) out of your head and onto paper are outlined in my Workbook: Give Your Story a Voice available on Amazon here: GIVE YOUR STORY A VOICE.