(Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds)
That is the most common question you’ll hear as an aviator. “So, why did you get into flying?” “What made you decide to become a pilot?”
I have my generic, canned answer, and I have my true answer. You are going to come to know the true answer.
Truth be told, I have not shared with many my journey to becoming a pilot. The road was not particularly easy or pleasant, and maybe that makes it more worthwhile to share. I’d like to add my voice to the multitude out there to show you that people from all culturals, traumas, and struggles can become a pilot. You do not need to have the perfect life or have amassed incredible wealth.
My Dad had once worked as a pilot in his younger years, and was trying very hard to pass down his love of aviation to his teenage kids, my younger brother and myself. Truth be told, I wasn’t too interested at first. I had school to worry about, and it didn’t align with my career goals. However, when my little brother started flying, it didn’t take long for me to become jealous. It looked cool, fun, and challenging. I wanted to get in on the fun too! And so, in Grade 12 of highschool, I began flying C152s and working on my private pilot’s license.
I was a lost soul in highschool. Self-conscious and depressed, in my mind I has nothing that made me special. Flying changed that. For the first time in my life, I was special. I was going to be a pilot. I was unique! I had something that maybe, just maybe, I would be good at and enjoy the rest of my life.
However, this feeling of bliss was not going to make its home with me for very long. Throughout my life, my parents had struggled with unresolved anger problems, and finally it was coming to a head. Shortly after I had graduated Grade 12, one small mistake culminated into a violent confrontation, and I got out. I left my home.
A newly graduated girl with no home, no money, and no education, had no business dreaming about being a pilot. I stomped on that dream, putting it far away for the time being. It was time for me to focus on getting back on my feet.
Misfortune was not done with my family and I just quite yet. For the second time, tragedy came around and reared it’s ugly, raw maw. My little brother, my perfectionist, my hilarious little annoying-as-heck but you love them all the same younger sibling, the only human who shared some traumatic experiences with me and understood my struggles, went missing. I got a call while on a mini vacation, and immediately made my way home. Time slowed.
Search and Rescue, as well as a group of civilian volunteers, searched by foot and air. These people are honest to God angels, and I am touched to this day how many pilots volunteered to scour the rough Canadian country for any sign of the wreckage.
And I say wreckage, for my brother went missing while flight training.
It felt like much, much longer, but as far as days and hours go, it wasn’t long before the crash site containing what once was the funniest and most remarkable person in the world to me was found. And that’s it, he was gone. No more would we reminisce about flying aircraft on Flight Simulator together as kids, or talk about how we used to play in the wild woods of Northern BC. God had ‘im now, and I was madder than hell.
The next few years are numb. I stopped wearing any colour, I was in and out of therapy. I hated people, I hated pilots, I hated airplanes, airports and flight schools. I hated enjoying myself and having fun, betraying the memory of my little brother by daring to live. Life stopped, and I would not let it go on any further.
Even so, winter does not last forever, and neither did mine. My spring eventually came, and the first metaphorical blossom on my tree was one, singular event.
An old family friend, and someone actually once very close to my little brother, reached out to me. She asked if I wanted to go for a plane ride.
To be continued…