Why are we so fascinated by flight? What draws us to it? What makes flight so special? Have you ever laid back on a summer’s day, looked up in fascination at the clouds above, and wondered what it would be like to play among them? Have you ever sat on a hill or a beach and watched the birds soar by? Do you wonder what it must be like to see the world from their perspective and feel the freedom they must surely enjoy? Have you ever stared out into a starry night sky in amazement at how small it makes you feel? Do you dream about exploring the vastness of the physical universe? Do you remember your dreams? If so, do you remember flying in them?
I believe that most people have experienced all these things on some level. Regardless of whether you actually get to experience them in the physical or do so only in your dreams and imagination, the only way to truly realize them is through some medium of inner or outer flight!
There’s something special about flight that can’t be found to the same degree in any other endeavor. Is it because it’s uniquely three-dimensional? Maybe. Is it because we have to leave the natural confines of our flat existence and defy an unseen force? Maybe. Could it be because we must break free of the bonds of our own limitations? Possibly. Or could the longing we feel be from something we’re not conscious of…a longing to return to something forgotten? Hmm?
Something about flight brings out the childlike wonder, amazement and sense of awe we all have within ourselves. It’s a shame we sometimes suppress or cover this up with unfortunate layers of growing up! I sometimes wonder if that childlike wonder is a more authentic expression of our true selves, but one we all tend to wrap limitations around over time. Maybe our fascination with flight is an ideal way to tap into that expression from a socially acceptable adult level?
I learned a long time ago that not everyone likes airplanes, but everyone has a fascination with flight! And why is that? I believe it taps into our very core, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Whether or not you’re a pilot; whether or not you enjoy flying—everyone can relate to the metaphor of what flight symbolizes, as flight, more than anything, is the most profound metaphor for pushing our boundaries, reaching beyond ourselves and attaining freedom. This not only applies to the outer physical worlds that surround us, for we all relate to reaching for the sky and the stars, but also applies to the inner worlds within us, for we all relate to soaring in our imagination and flying in our dreams. I believe flight, more than anything, resonates with the core of our being and taps into something beyond our current conscious level of awareness.
While flying aerobatic competitions, I came to realize that aerobatics was one of the more profound expressions of outer flight. This was reflected in how I continually looked for ways to improve the performance of my airplane. I always was striving for a faster roll rate, a better power-to-weight ratio or a better vertical performance. Whether it was up, down, sideways, right side up or upside down, I looked for every possible way to go beyond the airplane’s limitations. Later, I realized this was an expression and a metaphor for myself—for I always had the potential to go beyond myself, and in any direction as well.
There also was an inner aspect to aerobatic competition: pushing myself in ways that, in the end, created a continual competition within myself. While I could always judge myself against the performance of others, it was really about a competition with myself, and the potential to go beyond my current limitations. For me, aerobatics was all about pushing boundaries and seeking a greater sense of freedom that always seemed to be just beyond my grasp.
From an early age, I became fascinated with aircraft and physical flight. But I also became fascinated with what I now see as inner flight. Most people know me for my exploits in aerobatics and vintage aircraft, but I’ve always explored another parallel path that’s equally intriguing and exciting. From the time I became fascinated with physical flight, I also became fascinated with the worlds around us we don’t see.
In my early twenties and after several years of trying, I began to have conscious out-of-body experiences. I know there are ghosts because I’ve become one! I’ve floated though walls and ceilings in astral form, in realities just beyond the frequency range of our current one. These floating sensations and the freedom I experienced were basically just “flying” in another world, and while they were happening, they were as real as any aviating experience I’ve had in this world.
Over the years, these inner flights continued and eventually led me to explore other aspects of consciousness. Along the way, I’ve had many fascinating experiences and successes that only enhanced my reflections on the profoundness of all aspects of flight. While you may not currently enjoy consciously traveling in worlds beyond the physical, don’t underestimate your potential. What we all share in common is that everyone, at some level, can relate to what the metaphor of flight means in their own way. In your own life, what does it mean to you to reach for the sky and the stars, as well as soar in your imagination and fly in your dreams?
When I began to create Fantasy of Flight in Central Florida, my two parallel paths—inner and outer flight—merged to become one. While we display many rare and historic aircraft, it’s really not about airplanes anymore. Instead of airplanes serving as end products, they have become, as all airplanes are, a means to an end. They’re mediums of expression and metaphors for how we can each discover new ways to go beyond ourselves and our current limitations. I believe Fantasy of Flight will affect aviation enthusiasts—and nonaviators—in new and never imagined ways.
So, how might any of this apply to you? The next time you fly, I’d like you to try something. Get up to a comfortable cruising altitude, settle in and begin by looking down. From your lofty perch, ponder the world below—your world—and how you now see it from a higher perspective! Next, look off to the distant horizon—your horizon—as far as you can see, and wonder what might lie beyond it? Lastly, look up into the seemingly never-ending sky, and ask yourself, “What might lie beyond my current level and perception of reality? What limitations are keeping me from climbing even higher?”
I believe the process of searching for those answers will lead you on a fascinating journey of self-discovery! Oh, and just one last thing: It really is all about the journey, so enjoy your flight, wherever your travels may lead you!
Kermit Weeks is a two-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion who has been inducted into Florida’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Visit www.fantasyofflight.com.