Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When Is A Hobby Not A Hobby?

Regardless of how little a person flies, is it really a pastime?

Anything that's rooted in passion never actually leaves a person's mind. Inactivity, financial restraints, age and any of the other things that prevent participation do nothing to subdue the passion. If it's in the heart, it stays in the heart. It may be pushed off to the edges of our thought processes, but it never dies. Oh sure, it may lay dormant for long periods of time like brine shrimp in a dry lake. But, the first time it rains, the first time you pass an airport, life is pumped back into that passion and it quietly blossoms around the edges of your life until time permits you to wrap our hands around it and do something with it. This is aviation in spades. It never actually leaves a person's system.

I can't count the times I've run into graying vets who haven't touched an airplane since they returned from overseas 70 years ago. The instant I ask a question about their service, you can see their eyes brighten, and their entire demeanor changes. The interest I've shown in their flying days pumps a little mental moisture into a long-dormant interest, and it blooms. To a man/woman, they are, in some corner of their minds, still pilots. They still identify themselves as those youngsters who straddled thousands of horsepower and did amazing things. The passion is still there just waiting for the smallest thing to reignite it.

Even more often, I'll be at some sort of non-aviation gathering, and I'll see the passion bounce to the surface at the bare mention of the word "airplane." As recently as a few weeks ago, at breakfast with my daughter and a couple of her employees/friends, the subject of airplanes came up, and one of her guys suddenly rose to the spark. He was driven to talk about his father who had spent his life in aviation and made his son part of it. It was easy to see the young man come to life in a way that no one in his office had seen because he was in I'm-building-a-career mode and hadn't had a chance to flex his frustrated aviation muscles for a long time. He was subtly excited to be with someone who understood that part of his world. I was a fresh, familiar breeze from his past, and I'm willing to bet money that he'll be back in the flight training groove in the near future.

It's difficult to diagnose what it is about aviation that gets in a person's gut and stays there for a lifetime. But, one thing is for sure, it definitely isn't a hobby or a pastime. The following is a cliché, but more than anything else, aviation resembles a disease. One for which there's no known cure. And that's not a bad thing.


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