Bucket List, the column where Plane & Pilot readers wax eloquent about a wish list item they’ve checked off, is my favorite column in the magazine for several reasons. The biggest is the level of enthusiasm the writers reveal in their tales. It’s absolutely infectious and brings me back to my first flights, when everything about aviation seemed incredible and brand new.
But I realized that several of the items on my list were things that in all likelihood I’d never be able to do, either because the technology isn’t there or the money’s an issue, or, in some cases, the physics are all wrong, or, in a few cases, all of the above.
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Still, I thought, why not write about those impossible items, which in many ways articulate the magic of aviation better than reality ever could. So here are a few of them, entries on a dreamer’s personal planner with no time stamp and no end date attached, presented in order from the most possible to the impossible.
6. Own an electric plane: This one is perhaps possible, so I thought I’d start here. And granted, my lifetime, just to be sporting, is, let’s say, another 20 years of active flying, so I don’t have all the time in the world. Then again, who among us does, right? I wonder, will electric planes be available in 20 years’ time? Will they be affordable? And will they be useful for even basic recreational flying? Big things have to happen to make them a practical reality. Still, here’s one that stands a chance.
5. Go supersonic. I missed out on Concorde, so maybe I’ll just hitch a ride with the next supersonic airliner that happens to come around, if that ever happens. Or perhaps I’ll stick out my thumb the next time I see a supersonic fighter jet on the ramp and hope to hitch a ride to Mach-land. This one’s not impossible but pretty darned close.
4. Own and fly my own jet. Okay, this one sounds plausible, and for many people it’s a reality, so why include it here? Well, the money part. It’s not only really expensive to buy a jet but it’s really expensive to keep it flying. I’m far from poor, but jet ownership requires a level of wealth that’s out of my reach. What are the odds of it happening? About the same as a Powerball win.
3. Have dinner with the pioneers of flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright, George Cayley, Glenn Curtiss, Otto Lilienthal and Gustave Whitehead, to be able to ask them all the questions about their experiments that today we can only ask with no answers to come.
2. Be a fighter pilot. Okay, this one’s an easy “no” because it’s a factor of age, and I haven’t got a time machine handy. Sometimes in life some ships have sailed. Could I have done it? I think there’s a good chance I could have. I’m a good stick, I am in great shape, and I could make a go of the coursework. But in my 50s now…well, I’m probably not a prime candidate for Officer Training School.
1. Go to space. For many of us, the thought of going to space was impossible to ignore. When your heroes are Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride and Jim Lovell, well, you can’t help but picture yourself in that space ship…and that’s not even mentioning James T. Kirk or Han Solo. But will it happen in my lifetime? I’m afraid in this case a Powerball win might not even be enough to do the trick.
I bet I’m not alone in having bucket list items that could never be, and if you say I’m silly to dream about such things, I say, yes, I am, which is why I’d love to spend an evening with Orville and friends, discussing such dreams and how they made them all come true. Will mine come true as well? It’s not likely, but all our lives have certainly been richer for having dreamed them.