Recreation aviators are great! They are universally friendly, helpful and wonderfully enthusiastic. Their never-ending positive nature seems built in.
It's a good thing. Pleasure pilots need to be optimistic. After all, in our sport we suspend ourselves in invisible gases at lethal heights trusting that the theories of long dead scientists who never flew themselves will keep us up there.
Pilots are so trusting that we believe in the mysteries of lift, meteorology, electricity, gravity, the earth being round, dewpoint, magnetism, internal combustion and the Tooth Fairy.
We confidently take flying lessons in low-tech contraptions, often older than we are, with teachers young enough to be our grandchildren. Then we struggle through flight tests designed for commercial pilots and write exams where we cannot give our own answers but must pick from someone else's.
As licenced pilots we fly under a mountain of air regulations believing that we won't break any and if we do, that we won't get caught and if we are, it won't cost much and if it does, we'll win the appeal.
The entire aviation industry runs on optimism. Imagine Hertz renting 30-year-old vehicles for over $100 per hour; or auto manufacturers selling new cars so noisy that drivers must purchase two $1,000 headsets and an intercom to talk to a passenger. How about taking off and landing at highway speeds on donut-sized, 4-ply, non-radial tires?
Aircraft homebuilders are among the biggest optimists. I don't know anyone who has built a car from scratch or a kit. Most people don't even fix their own autos. Yet the number of fun fliers building and maintaining their own airplanes grows.
Non-aviators have words other than "optimistic" to describe pilots.
I once took a non-pilot friend to a glider field. He thought it was neat that pilots would tow each other aloft until he realized that the gliders were not being towed back down.
"How do they return to the airport?"
"With no power?"
He made a circular motion with his finger beside his head. "Those pilots have a few screws loose."
He was rewarded when a glider landed on the strip and tipped onto one wing before it stopped.
"See, he crashed."
You can't blame the public for thinking pilots are crazy. How many people drive cars covered in fabric or pop-riveted aluminum? My neighbour bought a Ford Expedition for the same price as a two-seat ultralight. The big utility vehicle has heated leather seats, a talking navigation unit, a million dollar entertainment system and 17 climate controlled cup holders. It will go faster than an ultralight, carry seven people and tow a boat.
But I'd have more fun with an ultralight. With amphibious floats, I'd go more places than any SUV and I wouldn't need a boat. I'd never be stuck in traffic and I could leave my relatives at home.
Being optimists doesn't mean pilots are stupid. We brag about our aircraft's speed and fuel consumption figures but we don't believe them. We check weather forecasts before flying but we'd never buy stocks on recommendations from Environment Canada.
And pilots are not gamblers. We don't frequent casinos, buy lottery tickets or bet on horse races. Flying is a much more satisfying way to blow money than punching slots, scratching tickets or betting on long-shot nags.
PESSIMISTS VS OPTIMISTS
Pessimists are afraid of flying. Optimists love flying but are afraid of crashing.
Pessimists don't fly because of the high cost fuel. Optimists fly as much as they can while fuel is still available.
Pessimists don't fly because the weather can be unpredictable. Optimists fly knowing they can't change the weather.
Pessimists don't fly because it takes initiative, knowledge, skill and a sense of adventure to operate an airplane. Optimists fly because it takes initiative, knowledge, skill and a sense of adventure to operate an airplane.
So pilots need to be optimists to fly. Aircraft are not user friendly. They do not operate intuitively and they are unforgiving. There are no menus popping up to ask if you are sure you want the aircraft to do what you just asked it to do.
Flying is reality. I love it.
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