We moved house eighteen months ago. The community here is warm and friendly and we have been made to feel really welcome, dinner invitations, introductions. You know the drill.
One of our new neighbors, Doctor Bob, introduced me to Brian, father of Sam, a young lad of seventeen who ate, slept, lived and breathed aviation. At least he did until he hit a snag. His dream had been to fly with the RAF; the selection process is fairly rigorous and he had hit bump in the road. “Try again in a year or eighteen months.” had been their response to his ride through the selection system. Now, to anyone who understands the system, this means that the selectors like the cut of your jib but feel that a year out in the big wide world would benefit the promising man. The emergent character would be better formed and the picture of the potential aviator, clearer to the RAF. If they don’t want you, they make it clear, very clear. They meant exactly what they said.
I was asked to have a chat with Sam, look him over and perhaps help him illuminate his pathway just a little. A bit of timely encouragement is something we all need now and again and it was clear that he needed just that. He was pretty devastated by what he saw as failure and had made his own mind up about a few things. Been there?
I grabbed the phone and then a kite and we drove to a hilltop GA airfield we know in Dorset on a windy day to fly. After a drive and a few hours fun being burnt and blasted by the wind and the sun, I had a fairly good idea where Sam stood. I hope he did too because after a little gentle probing I gave it him straight between the eyes.
I think I said something like, “Aviation tends to be self selecting, it doesn’t reward quitters nor suffer fools. If you want to get into the cockpit without a fight, buy FlightSim 2000 and a bag of dough-nuts. You might find the experience fulfilling for a while, but it will leave you hungry for something that doesn’t come out of a bag. If you need help, you have it, but fight for it.”
Well, he seemed to perk up, he had a good eye and a fine pair of hands with the kite. Sam was bright and focused when his Dad dropped him off at the local gliding club just a couple of days later. Gliding seemed to hit the spot and he flourished right right up to pre-solo. Like all newcomers, and particularly the youngsters, he was doing the good (hard work) stuff at the club that the pundits, hangers on and fat cats can never be bothered with. Then something happened.
We don’t know what yet, perhaps a girlfriend, offhand treatment at the gliding club or just loss of focus – who knows. The net result was that he seems to have given up right at the point where he would start to make real progress, after his first solo. C’est la vie.
Either way, if he wants to fly he will need to sit down and write out another application, the Air Force will not ring him nor will the seat remain vacant for him for long. And if that pathway fails, there are others – are there not? Bristol has a thriving gliding club and a University Air Squadron. Lose the time window and wonder for ever if you could make it Sam, you may regret not making the effort for the rest of your life and if you don’t… you have self selected yourself into the work of your choice. Remember this text below, it should still be taped into the front cover of your logbook. It is a blessing and maybe a curse.
What exactly is it that you have to lose by trying? Unless of course you have something else that you would far rather do with your life, in which case, ignore all after “We moved house eighteen months ago…”
Fancy getting the kites out when next the wind blows?