Monday, December 10, 2007

The joy of flying

As I took off from SFO early this morning I was jolted out of my usual sleepy, somewhat disgruntled Monday morning travel mood. Seated on the port side of the airplane as we took off to the north, I was transfixed by the glory of the sight outside my window. Crisp, blue sky with probably 100 miles of visibility. San Francisco, unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, clear and sparkling in front of me with the Golden Gate bridge behind it – for once with no fog hiding it. And this fantastic sight was framed by the airplane wing – as much a part of the beauty to me as the geography.

I learned to fly gliders when I was 16, at a club which launched the old fashioned way - with a winch off a 1000 ft ridge. It was in Shopshire and I was the only teenager in a group of adults learning how to fly (I had pestered my parents endlessly until they finally caved and let me go!). This was the most freeing thing I have ever done and was one of the key milestones in my development to becoming so independent. Gliders are the purest form of flying. - because you have no engine your ability to stay aloft is purely a function of your skill. Can you identify where the lift is? Can you control your plane to climb in the thermals and so can you navigate your way across country from cloud to ridge to cloud? It’s just you, the plane and the air.

I forget how amazing that feeling is – it’s been many years since I put gliding aside for real life, but occasionally I see a sight like the carpet of beauty I was honored with this morning and I am reminded of the sheer joy of flying.

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