How I Became a Pilot: A Cautionary Tale

Been thinking a lot today about how I ended up where I am…

When I graduated high school at 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had good grades in everything, a few good extra-curriculars, but nothing that I wanted to start a career with. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I decided to take a year off. The plan was to live at home and find a job. That idea lasted all of about three weeks before we (me and my parents) decided it wasn’t going to work out. (I was bored.)

My father’s answer to this was to start bringing home career ideas – the crazier the better – to try to tempt me into college. Every evening, he would return from work with a list. He would read it aloud at dinner and the entire family would have a great chuckle commenting on the likelihood of his choices.

One night, he arrived, not with a list, but with a sheet of air traffic controller jokes that he had gotten from a pilot friend. He announced that this must be the right job because the salary was such that I would be able to keep him comfortable in his old age. We all laughed a lot, but it got me to thinking.

Sitting in a tower all day didn’t sound like much fun, but flying did. I walked downstairs the next morning and told my family that I wanted to be a pilot. That afternoon, Dad took me with him to work and introduced me to the chair of the flight department. He, in turn, set me up with a practice lesson at the flight school.

I went and chatted with the chief flight instructor. He said it sounded like I was pretty interested and asked if I wanted to take up the Super Decathlon instead of one of the C-152s. Presented with a shiny little red aircraft with white lighting decals, I agreed on the spot. It was way more bad-ass looking than the scrawny little Cessnas, which very much mattered to me at that age. 🙂

For the record, the D-Cat is commonly used as an aerobatic trainer – i.e. a stunt plane.

I strapped on a parachute (my parents were blissfully ignorant of this change in plans, as they had let me borrow the car to take myself to the airport) and off we went. When I didn’t freak out or get sick, he let me fly. The first aerial maneuver he taught me to fly was a roll and the second was a loop. Serious Gs and total conviction that I was meant to be at the stick.

Needless to say, I went home and told my poor parents to get out their checkbook because I was signing up for Spring classes.


If you happen to be a parent, the moral of the story is: Be careful what you suggest to your children. They may just take you up on it. 😛

If you’re the kid: Jump when you get the chance. It’ll earn you serious bad-ass points and you’ll have great things to write about when you decide later on that you want to be an author too.


One thought on “How I Became a Pilot: A Cautionary Tale

  1. I’m actually thinking of taking courses myself. But not to change careers, I simply want to expand my horizons. I have a lot of time to think it over, as I can’t afford it until later in the year. But I’m glad I happened along your post.

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