A World Away.

Owen Zupp Qantas Boeing 787 Emily


A World Away.

Returning to flying after such a long absence has been an extremely motivating experience – in stark contrast to the preceding year of mixed frustrations. From taking those first tentative steps following surgery, it is almost surreal to be sitting at 38,000 feet beneath the stars and gazing down upon the spectacular gas flares rising from Kuwaiti oil wells.

Kuwait Gas Flares Owen Zupp
Gas Flares from Kuwaiti Oil Wells.

Far removed from hospital hallways filled with beeping monitors, the flight deck of the Boeing 787 by night is a peaceful place. Its large panoramic windows wrap well around behind the pilots, opening up the sky in a way that my previous aircraft types have been unable to do. Ahead, the instrument panel is clinically laid out and glowing, providing the data of where, when and how.

Still, it is the sound of the slipstream sliding past my windows that provides the sound track to the serenity. Rather than a loud rushing of air or the engine’s roar, the wind chooses to whisper. Beyond the conversation and radio communication, the flight deck lends itself to a form of focused meditation with my eyes scanning from flight instruments, to engine indications and back again. With the exception of my family, the cockpit is my “happy place”.

Boeing 787 Flight Deck - Owen Zupp

Over a single week in January my magic carpet crossed oceans and gulfs, the Middle East, the Danube and the Dardanelles. The ultimate destination of London brought with it a whirlwind of experiences, from historical landmarks to reunions with old friends. As I stood on an icy rail platform in Cambridge with salt beneath my feet, I couldn’t avoid constantly drawing comparisons to a year before and how far my journey had taken me. Back then, a few simple steps had been an achievement. Now, I was able to span the globe.

For all we have achieved as a species, we still cannot predict the future. What lies around the corner remains a mystery until we make that turn. All we can control is how we choose to deal with what lies ahead, both good and bad. Adversity can threaten to defeat us or provide a challenge to overcome. Opportunity can appeal to our vanity, or remind us of how fortunate we truly are. We cannot dictate our fate, only our response.

For this earthbound misfit, having spent more than 800 days of the past three years grounded, I can only respond with gratitude. I was not only able to return to health but I was able to return to the sky. At 38,000 feet, those troubles of the year past may as well have been a world away.

And in many ways, they were.

Big Ben London - Owen Zupp