Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aerodromes And Longevity

A trip to the airport is good for what ails you

Have you ever stood around the airport or at a fly-in, looked at some of your higher-mileage friends, and realized that even the gray dogs in the crowd act and look 15 years younger than you know them to be? I have. Then, I got to thinking about my circle of friends, all of whom are pilots or total aviation freaks, and realized that none of them look their age. And, of course, no pilot acts his/her age. That's a given. Is there something of significance here? What's the common denominator? Obviously, it's aviation, a possible aerial fountain of youth.

With so many of us baby boomers reaching the age that whippersnappers mistakenly label as "old," it seems as if age-related conversations are popping up with disturbing regularity. The young talk about age because they think they need more of it to attain status (and beer). The middle-aged talk about it because they think it's coming too quickly (they ain't seen nothin' yet). The gray dogs talk about it primarily because some gray dogs insist on bringing it up, even though the rest of us would just as soon ignore it.

Inasmuch as I have to admit to becoming a gray dog myself (and damn proud of it), I'm conscious of the "age" conversations, but I can't help but think that they're talking about someone else. Not me. And I know most of my friends feel the same way: They can't be talking about us. Yeah, we've got the miles, but although we have a physical tweak here and there, we're a long way from feeling it mentally. About the only time age seems important to us is when we start worrying about aviation insurance companies dropping us, or AME's red-tagging us. Otherwise, decade after decade, av-dogs seem as if they go about their business just as they always have, blissfully unaware of the passing years. Why is that?

I think one of the reasons active older pilots usually stand out in a crowd of their peers as being young for their age is that their passion for flight, whether they're still actually flying or not, adds an ingredient to their existence that's life sustaining. And I don't think this should be underestimated.

All of us know folks who could hardly wait to retire. So, they do. They put a comfortable rocker on the front porch, pour 11 million glasses of ice tea, sit down, and watch however many sunsets they have left. They sit around waiting, and nine times out of 10, what they know is coming catches them before it should. And they weren't truly alive in the interim. Not so the gray-dog aviator (or aviation enthusiast).

It's well known that aviation is some sort of disease. If it weren't, it couldn't so clearly enslave our mind, our will and our common sense. Aviation creeps into the tiny folds of our brains, makes a nest, builds a special kind of fire, and is generally there forever. So, age doesn't matter. Not usually anyway.

Labels: FeaturesPilot Talk


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