Maybe it’s that mid-life thing. Maybe not.
When 2014 dawned on the radar, there wasn’t a whole lot on the schedule other than turning 50. My family life was great but professionally things seemed a little ‘steady’. To date I had been so fortunate in my aviation career, seeing sights that I once could never have dreamed of and having flown a great variety of aircraft. I had crossed oceans and been helicoptered out of a remote crash site, drunk straight from coconuts at old wartime airstrips and seen sunrises that could only inspire. Perhaps I’d had my run…after all, I am turning 50.
And then my Mum died.
Dad had been gone for over 20 years, but Mum had always been there it seemed. I’ve never been one to sit and mope - my Dad never raised me that way. Suck it up and move on. It was a skill set that served me well in my time as a schoolboy, as a paramedic and every day since. So here in 2014, what was I to do? I did as I had always done. I loved my family, flew my 737 and wrote about flight. As I said, suck it up, I had nothing to contemplate or regret. Life was good. At the same time as I gave myself this less-than-subtle reminder everything changed. Out of the blue I had the opportunity to travel to Spain and France to visit a range of Airbus facilities across those two nations and even fly in the new 'A350 XWB'. I then stayed on for another week with my wife in the south of France and walked among the ruins of castles that were centuries old and stand in magnificent cathedrals of the same period. I flew a Cessna 172 over that very same countryside and watch the aeroplane’s shadow dance over pastures and hillsides where knights had once ridden their steeds.
No sooner had I returned to Australia than I was asked to fly a re-enactment of the first air mail flight between Melbourne and Sydney. In the company of great people and vintage aeroplanes I followed the inter-capital rail line under clear blue skies with multiple stops along the way. And when we were finished, Kirrily and I were hosted at a wonderful ‘red carpet’ event with the original mail aircraft hanging from the roof above our heads. The wonder continued when I was given the opportunity to fly to the United Kingdom and train on the Airbus A320 after more than 20 years on Boeings. What a difference a few months had made.
All of my life aviation has provided me with opportunities and challenges that have made my life richer. It even introduced me to my wife so many years ago. There have been darker days too when airlines have collapsed around me and even sadder times when I have lost good friends too young. However, I think of how my life may have been in some other field of endeavour and I can’t believe the amazing experiences that I’ve had.
I’m sure that there are others out there whose life has been enriched by flight. And if it hasn’t just yet, wait a minute and persevere….the change may just be around the corner. And always remember that the sky is NEVER the limit.