Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Adventure Is In The Eye Of…

To some of us, just getting off the ground is an adventure

Elsewhere in this issue, we’re bantering around the phrase “adventure aircraft” as if it’s a universally understood term. Personally, I’m not sure it is. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think the term “adventure” itself is open to definition and is very much colored by your aviation life and how you live it—one man’s adventure is another’s ho-hum afternoon.
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Then, I think about turning final to mere slashes in the jungle that stretched every possible definition of “runway.” They were short (some 450 feet) and undulating and hemmed in by rocks and huge trees. Better yet, we were flying a twin: the Evangel 4500. Every bit of water in any direction was teeming with piranhas, it was jungle as far as the eye could see and all the locals wore breechclouts and carried machetes. I felt like the central character in a National Geographic article! Now that was an adventure.

And then there was my short tenure as a warbird pilot, during which time I was living my daydreams as I skipped from Mustang to P-38, B-25 to Bearcat, etc., etc. The sheer adrenaline of machines like these makes each flight an adventure, but in my case, it was doubly so because I was so far outside of my comfort zone in every possible way. A ragleg Cub pilot in high-horsepower heaven: That was me.

I so clearly remember the daring and excitement associated with my first three or four hours of dual learning aerobatics in a Citabria. As I came over the backside of my first loop, at that exact instant, it was as if I had just discovered aviation for the first time. My world was instantly transformed and would never be the same. In a nanosecond, the airplane became something more than a semi-exotic form of transportation. It became my ticket to an entirely new world, and the three-dimensional possibilities of flight came up and hit me right between the eyes. Today, 40 years after that startling discovery, I still feel the same daring and excitement on every single flight.

For something to be adventurous, however, it’s not necessary to be going straight up or slipping into a foreboding piece of real estate. Nor is it necessary to be doing something you would normally judge as being totally outlandish. What is necessary, however, is that we all look around and ask a simple question: “In my life, have I been in this one place with my feet up for so long that I’m so comfortable I’d rather not have to move out of it?” If the answer is any form of yes/maybe/I don’t know, then it’s time for a little adventure. It’s time to climb out of your rut and go where no part of you has gone before. (Thanks, Captain Kirk.) It’s time to add a little color and spice to a life that may be trending down to being sedimentary.

It’s important to remember that sediment is the stuff that lies at the bottom of rivers, lakes and oceans, while all the exciting stuff is happening above it. And no one wants to be on the bottom looking up.

Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & CFIA, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his website at


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