Out of all my hobbies and interests, aviation is the one that has been in my life the longest. Although hockey is an irreplaceable thing in my life, I only began playing when I was twelve. And though I identify as British and love everything about Great Britain, I didn’t visit nor know much about it for the first decade of my life. Conversely, I took my first flight when I was six months old, and since then I have flown, on average, two to five times per year. My dad has worked for various airlines in Toronto, and because of that I have grown up around airplanes and aviation, to my sincere delight.
Photo of Toronto Pearson International Airport from the air: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Buffyjossdollhouse.
One of my goals in life is to obtain a private pilot’s license. Three years ago, as a birthday present from my parents, I received a flying lesson in a Cessna 172. The experience was incredible- my instructor took me over the city where I live, and then gave me full control of the plane! I flew for about five minutes, and although I was initially nervous, in the air I felt calm and capable and very happy. Flying is an amazing experience for me, and I look forward to the day when I have a pilot’s license and perhaps a plane of my own.
As you may have gathered, I do not experience any trepidation or discomfort while flying. Even long commercial flights offer excitement to my mind, and I never worry about turbulence in the air or potential problems with the aircraft. Flying is so much fun for me that I pity those who view it as routine or frightening. However, I did have a few brief moments of anxiety on approach to Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier Airport in August 2012- our approach was over a small, scrubby bunch of trees, and once we were about 300 feet above the ground, a flock of birds flew out of the trees and was swarming around us. I was a little worried that there might be a bird strike, but thankfully nothing came of it!
Any trip to Toronto is thrilling for me, because of the ever-present stream of airplanes on approach and departure from Toronto Pearson Airport. I love watching the planes overhead, trying to identify their make and wondering where they are coming from or where they are headed. Oftentimes (and more specifically, on my 19th birthday last year) my family and I drive down to Toronto and take up a position beneath a flight path in order to watch the airplanes on their journeys. We have several such positions, which are chosen depending on which runways are in use at the time.
Air Canada Boeing 777 on approach
It is beyond fascinating to watch such magnificent pieces of engineering up close and in action- I always get such a sense of awe when I see airplanes. Everything about them- the smell of jet fuel, the roar of the engines, the sight of these graceful yet massive multi-ton machines powering through the air- is awe-inspiring and almost beyond belief. I run the risk here of sounding rather crazy and odd, but aircraft of all kinds represent so much to me. A quote from the peculiar yet sincere Captain Jack Sparrow comes to mind- “What a ship is… is freedom.” Well, to me, an airplane is freedom. It is many other things as well, but freedom is as sound a description as any.
Air Canada Airbus A319 on approach
I have flown in many types of aircraft- the usual Boeing and Airbus planes, Bombardier CRJs, private Cessnas, and Bombardier Dash 8s. But the most memorable plane was certainly a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. I had the privilege in flying on one of these beasts when I was about six years old- fortunately, I do remember the flight!- and although I did not sit on the top deck, I was very excited to be flying on such a huge and unique plane.
My favourite aircraft, however, has to be the Dash 8. I’ve probably flown on more Dash 8s than I have on any other type of aircraft, and I have always enjoyed my Dash 8 flights. As much as I love the whine of a turbofan engine, I prefer the relentless drone of a turboprop like the Dash 8’s, and I relish watching the props power up before flight. I also like the feeling of flight in a smaller plane like the Dash 8, as one feels every bank and pitch of the aircraft. Bigger planes like the Boeings and CRJs just don’t feel the same in the air.
Air Canada Jazz Dash 8 on approach
I’m very grateful that my dad works in aviation- because if he didn’t, I don’t imagine I would ever have developed the appreciation for aviation that I have now. The only reason I have travelled so much is because he receives cheaper airline tickets through his job, and my interest in airplanes only exists because of his association with them. Just this past weekend, I was able to visit the hangar where my father works, and there I sat in the captain’s seat of an out-of-commission A320. I also stood beside the engine from a Boeing 777- amazing! I’m not tall, but it was twice my height at least and was very imposing and elegant.
Back in the days before the horror of 9/11, it was possible to visit the cockpit of one’s plane in-flight. Although I was very young, I remember several instances where my parents took me and my brother to look at the cockpit and meet the pilots. Being a very shy child, I was always nervous to talk to the pilots, but they were always more than kind. On one late-night journey back from British Columbia, we visited the cockpit and the captain pointed out the lights of the town where we lived. I was very impressed and amazed that he could tell where our town was. Such memories are very dear to me, and have contributed to my love for flying.
Photo of Airbus A319 cockpit: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Ralf Roletschek.
With aviation having held such a monumental place in my life for such a long time, I expect it will continue to feature heavily for the rest of my life. Several years ago, before realizing I wanted to be a writer, I considered training to be a commercial pilot or even joining the Royal Canadian Air Force- although I may not have taken that path, I do know that I want aviation to be a part of my life no matter what I am doing.
I am looking forward to working towards my private pilot’s license, and I occasionally enjoy browsing aviation magazines in search of dream airplanes for sale! It is proving very difficult to explain, but aircraft hold a strange, almost magical significance for me. Whenever I see something like a 747 or a Hercules, I am baffled as to how such a gargantuan collection of metal can defy gravity and actually fly. And there are times- usually after hearing Prism’s musical masterpiece “Armageddon”– that I wish I could be a fighter pilot or a loadmaster or even a flight attendant, just to be in the air and around airplanes.
If you’re like me, then perhaps this post made some sense to you- but if not, I hope you found some enjoyment in my account of how aviation is such a joy to me.