Defining the joy of flying and more - The New Indian Express

Defining the joy of flying and more

Published: 17th December 2012 08:38 AM

Last Updated: 17th December 2012 08:38 AM

When I tell people that I’m a pilot, I get all kinds of responses, good ones mostly. The most quizzical one of course is — Do you also fly normal planes?  I can almost bring a smile on anyone’s face during such discussions as most imagine being a pilot as a fun and glamorous job. They also sense their own childhood dream being fulfilled by this person they are talking to. Is this the real joy of flying?

When I started at the age of 15 on gliders, my first few flights gave me a sense of fulfillment. It was difficult to believe that my dream of becoming a pilot was indeed becoming a reality. As the experience piled on, I thought that the greatest joy of flying is this sense of achieving the impossible. After all, becoming a pilot and getting a license needed an investment of both time and money besides physical fitness. All of this was tougher than it sounds.

Between the age of 22 and 27 I was working towards becoming a pioneer in the field of sport aviation for women in the country with many firsts to my credit. Building on experience of microlights was more difficult than getting a Commercial Pilot License. The best compliments I got from my instructor was that I had mastered kisser landings. I probably thought that this is indeed the real joy of flying. My ability to bring this machine back on the ground and execute a fine landing.

At the age of 28, I had recorded a historical flight on the microlight — flying it solo during Air Race 2003. The 25-hour solo flying experience gave me a three-dimensional experience. No roads, no highways just airspace, pure freedom!  No co-pilot, a handful of emergency situations (almost running out of fuel, bad weather, fatigue), yet, I always reached the destination. A thought that stayed with me throughout was that I had to get back home safe with my machine to my family, my daughter. These factors helped me achieve another first. I believe that this was the perfect combination to state that I am indeed experiencing the joy of flying!

The Wright Brothers invented the airplane in their quest to achieve man’s greatest dream — to fly. It was the mastery over machinery that gave them the greatest satisfaction. Maneuvering the flight stick and pedals, they helped man do just that — fly. Flying, over the century given many a chance to get away from the daily routine of life. To be alone in the sky with just the wind and the humming of the engine for company and experiences to narrate .

Toady, at the age of 36, with a large family, my reasons to state that I have indeed experienced the joy of flying has changed. Each time I look down, I see God’s creation from another perspective, and I am reminded of how insignificant we all are. The freedom of flying can only be felt. To pass this miraculous feeling on to another through training has indeed been the true joy of flying — actually the joy of giving.

(Audrey Maben is India’s first Woman Microlight Flying Instructor. She is married to wing commander Ashok Mehta)

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