It’s mid-morning on the first day of the new year as I’m writing this, and I’ve already managed to put myself in a serious funk. I just did something really (as in really) stupid: I looked at last year’s list of resolutions. The list wasn’t that ambitious, but looking back at it makes me wonder exactly what I did with my time for the last 12 months.
The list was:
1) Fly my airplane for 10 hours solo (I hadn’t flown it solo in 500 hours).
2) Have the Roadster running by July.
3) Write 200 pages of the next novel by EAA AirVenture time.
4) Have the Kentucky rifle ready to receive its finish by November.
5) Add 10 pireps to my Website by April and another 10 by June.
6) Spend one day a week without turning on the computer.
How did I do? The short answer is that I didn’t!
I logged 400 hours in my airplane, and every one of them was dual-given. No solo hours. The Roadster has progressed, but I’ll be lucky to get it running this year. The next novel is stuck at a mental crossroads where I can’t decide which of the four fully developed plots to write. The Kentucky rifle doesn’t even have fingerprints in the dust. And the Website didn’t get enough changes to notice. The one-day computer moratorium? Don’t make me laugh! It’s cooking 15 to 18 hours a day, seven days
So exactly where did I go wrong? Or am I using the wrong yardstick to measure 2004?
In the process of building my current mental funk, I flipped back through the pages of my ever-present desk calendar. Wow! Not a lot of blank spots. The EAA AirVenture, Sun ’n Fun, four trips to the East Coast on magazine business, a trip to Michigan for a speaking engagement and another to Illinois. The last two meant that I was paid to talk about airplanes. (What a concept!)
There were a couple of blocks on the calendar that said “Mojave” and I couldn’t help but grin. The first was when we went out to watch history being made as Mike Melvill became the world’s first civilian astronaut when he flew SpaceShipOne. What an incredible kick in the shorts!
The other “Mojave” block was when I spent part of a day flying the SpaceShipOne simulator. I can’t even begin to describe that event in anything less than two-foot-high letters.
As I came to the end of the calendar, I noticed where I had drawn a purple star on Christmas Day with a big “B&B” in the middle of it. That was to make sure I remembered that we had a B&B couple coming in that afternoon and that I’d be flying them for the next four days.
As I looked at that star, I grinned again. A number of local friends couldn’t believe that we actually had guests we had never met arriving Christmas afternoon. That happens a lot around here. In fact, we ended the year with nearly 200 nights of flying guests, and people are sometimes amazed we spend that much time with total strangers in our home. As I looked at the purple star on the Christmas Day page, I thought about that.
When I first scribbled that note on the Christmas block, Jim and Ellen Glasgow were, indeed, strangers. They were just names on a page. All I knew about them was that Jim was thinking about buying a Pitts and wanted to come fly with me to see whether he could actually fly the airplane. Then, he’d decide whether to get serious about airplane shopping.
There’s another notation stating that they checked out four days later. But that note looks different because seven hours of flying and four evenings of delightful conversation separate it from the first one. When the first was written, they were just names. By the second, they were friends.
Jim and I made something like 60 takeoffs and landings, and he told me candidly that one of the reasons he wanted to fly with me was that he had reached the age where he had to make some hard decisions—he had to buy a Pitts now or live the rest of his life wishing he had. Never a wise choice. Without him saying so, I knew that he was mixing his age into the can-I-do-it? equation and had his doubts. A few days later, he had no doubts. Hell yes, he could do it. Age be damned, he was still a pilot and a good one at that. So now, he’s scouring Trade-A-Plane and any place else where he might find an orphan biplane in need of a good home.
It made me feel good knowing that I had been a part of the process that helped Jim over that little hurdle. Plus, Marlene and I really enjoyed getting to know them. Ellen is a hoot. Besides, our dog, Nizhoni, immediately jumped on her lap as soon as she sat down. That means she had our vote from the beginning. Nizhoni only responds to good vibes, and Ellen definitely gives out good vibes.
As I scanned the names that are scribbled on the calendar, an endless procession of faces paraded through my mind, and I thought of the time we spent together, both in and out of the cockpit. That’s when I realized where my time went last year—it was invested in making friends and helping fellow aviators realize a dream or two. So, although not a single one of my resolutions was kept, I certainly didn’t waste my time. Besides, resolutions are highly overrated, anyway.
Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & A, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his Website at www.airbum.com.