Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Time Flies

Tomorrow has a way of becoming yesterday entirely too quickly

No one tells us when we’re young at that time. It’s like gasoline in an airplane that’s consumed in what appears to be an exponential manner. The first 1⁄4 tank goes by fairly slowly. In fact, you barely notice when the needle leaves the full mark and works its way down to that first big hash mark. As with life, there’s so much left in the tank that you basically ignore the fuel burn.

You’re trundling along, paying close attention to your navigation and making absolutely certain that you hit all of life’s checkpoints so you wind up where you’re supposed to be at the time your trusty E6-B says you should. Part of this “blasting past the roses” approach to life is the result of wanting a career, and that becomes a destination in itself. Destinations, unfortunately, carry self-imposed estimated times of arrival, so most of us don’t sightsee as much as we should on the way.

At some point, we notice that the needle is on the half-full mark. No biggie. We’re making good headway. We’re on course and all of that. Then we blink our eyes, and the needle is racing past the quarter-full mark. When did that happen? We start fiddling with the mixture, exercising and watching our own fuel burn, trying to stretch out the range. Suddenly, the time at which we arrive isn’t as important as the simple act of arriving. We just want to stay aloft long enough to know that we’ll get there. But “there” loses its definition and becomes a foggy “something” way out in the distance. The destination loses all importance, and only the journey counts.

It’s at that point when we realize fuel is sucking through our personal engine so much faster than it did while under the 1⁄2 mark that we begin looking for some place to land. But, on this particular journey, there are no alternates. There are no handy rest stops with gas pumps that can run that fuel needle back down toward the 3⁄4 mark. We would actually settle for just making it stand still for a little while.

While my airplane is in rehab, I’m flying a brand-new, much more powerful version that literally takes your breath away with its ability to claw into the air. It’s tight, light and quick, and so disgustingly young. It’s as young as the professional pilot in the other seat who is totally intimidated by the experience because it’s so far outside his comfort zone. I’m not enamored with it either. Not because it isn’t a nearly perfect, awe-inspiring airplane, but because it’s not my slightly weary old bird that fits me like a 30-year-old pair of boots.


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