Or perhaps the title of Grounded could be fitting too. I’ve been in my current ground-pounding Army job for 2 years; it was only supposed to be a 2-year assignment. That was about perfect: when I left my last flying assignment, I had developed a pretty bad taste in my mouth, not to mention attitude, from the whole experience (Cannon was commonly known as the “soul sucker” – and I definitely let it suck mine away). So a non-flying, completely different assignment for a short period (in this case, 2 years) is what the doctor ordered to regain perspective and appreciate the whole flying thing again. As predicted, it worked. As my time toward the 2-year mark approached, I found myself looking more and more forward to getting back in the jet and flying.
I eagerly awaited to see what (and where) my next assignment would be as the assignment release date approached… and came… and went. When I hadn’t heard any news after a few days, I called for myself to find out: “We’re sorry you had to find out this way, but you’ve been extended for a full third year. The F-16 community is looking pretty grim right now; the only way you’ll be able to get back in is by volunteering to Korea. Other aircraft could be an option too.” Other aircraft like what? I asked. “Oh, the predator needs pilots…” Did I mention that I actually wanted to fly? More on getting strung along was posted here, oddly enough titled Strung Along.
So if you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ll be on-board with the Army for a third year to include a fourth rotation to the desert. I received that news just prior to deploying for my third rotation (that I just got back from) and took it pretty hard. At that point, I was really missing the flying… and to be so close to going back to it yet end up so far away again… but there are worse things that can happen by far and perhaps I had somewhat of a revelation during my time overseas.
A while back ago, my happiness must have become somewhat correlated to things out of my control. I really have no control over what my next assignment may be; I know I have no control over whether or not I was extended. I started thinking about it and the realization came to me: why not worry, and be happy, about stuff I do have control over?
Like I said above, I’ve really missed the flying – especially lately. The Air Force has me “grounded” for another year, but who’s to say that I can’t fly sooner? After being inspired by my buddy Magic (who owns his own Mooney) and my buddy Magnum (who decided to get a taildragger checkout), I decided that it’s time to take fate into my own hands and fly now. Besides, Pam and I talked about trading in weekends of boozing for things that we actually enjoy doing to introduce a little more adventure into our lives (and therefore enjoying our lives a little more).
Within days of returning from Iraq, I booked myself some flights at the local FBO in Savannah. It has been 2+ years since I’ve touched any aircraft controls, and 8+ years since I’ve flown any type of civilian airplane! The good news is that’s it’s kinda like riding a bike; it came back to me pretty quickly. I’ve done four flights so far; all said and done, it looks like I will do a total of five flights to get re-certed for IFR and night flying on the two Cessna 172s they have. Once they get their Cessna 172RG out of the shop, I’ll get certed for the retractable landing gear as well. Below is a picture of me on my fourth flight out…
Ok, so I messed with the background scene a little bit (had to resurrect some old F-16 pictures I had as well). Besides, an uneventful instrument flight from Savannah to Charleston and back doesn’t make for the most interesting picture. On a side note, I’m sure there are a few civilian pilots out there that actually have an unphotoshopped picture of something like this – I know because I’ve flown many-a-O.N.E. mission in the F-16 (back in the day) where I’ve come much closer than this to intercept some civilian aircraft that happened to be in the wrong place at the ‘right’ time.
I plan on making the best out of my rediscovered freedom of flight. For one, I’ve already received the
blessing of my Squadron to fly myself places TDY if needed (rather than buying an airline ticket), and I’ll get reimbursed for the gas. Also, I already have three flying-related vacations in the works for Pam, Brenden and me: a long weekend flight to Cleveland and back, a long weekend flight to my parent’s ranch in Texas and back, and a week-long flying trip to Key West in Florida. I can’t wait.
Oh, and speaking of getting back in the saddle, it’s only fair that I ensure Pam has the same opportunities. Pam has always enjoyed horseback riding but was never really taught how to do it (formally, at least). When I signed myself up for flying, I also signed her up for weekly horseback riding lessons. Not only does it give her the same sense of adventure I get from flying (as well as something she can teach me down the road!), but it also gets her out of the house and some well-needed away-time from Brenden.
Ah, life is good.