Looking Up and Moving Forward. By Owen Zupp.
Looking up, a lone airliner leaves a contrail that seems to divide the cloudless sky into halves. A crisp white line with a winged speck at its head, carving through the stratosphere. On an airway that is normally congested with airliners and a winter sky where criss-crossing contrails form a quilt, a single aircraft passes over head. Its engines whispering to anyone who’ll listen. early on a Sunday morning.
By my calculations, this is the longest time between flights that I have ever known. Since I first clambered into the sky as a trainee in 1981, the sky has been a second home. Even when I wasn’t plying my trade as a commercial pilot, I would find a way to fly. On a holiday to Hawaii, I organised a flight over Pearl Harbor in a WW2-vintage aircraft. On a getaway to Cairns, I experienced the majesty of the Great Barrier Reef from the front seat of a helicopter, operating from a floating pontoon in the heart of those stunning waters.
For now, I sit, and I crane my neck to look to the heavens at the sound of a two-seat trainer or a single Boeing.
However, things are looking up. Announcements suggest that within Australia, domestic flying is set to be increased. There is talk of ‘travel bubbles’ with New Zealand and potentially other neighbours. Inch by inch we may yet return to the skies, although it looks to be a long road. Air travel has changed significantly and the way in which we once skipped carefree around the globe will not return for some time – if ever.
Personally, it would be no surprise if the stand-down for international pilots like my wife and I, continues well into 2021. That is potentially a long time between drinks – and pay cheques. It’s also a huge absence from the air. Fortunately, I still hold my Grade One Flight Instructor Rating and have been fortunate to come to know many wonderful aviation folks over nearly forty years in aviation. I’m sure that my itch to fly will be scratched soon.
In the meantime, I will continue to read, write, and work on a range of ground-based aviation projects. Kirrily and I will have “dining in” nights in our study with take-away food and tablecloths. We will ride bikes, bushwalk, and spend time with our kids. As difficult as home-schooling was, we miss having that time with our four youngsters – but don’t tell them that.
Yes, the break from flying has been frustrating at times, to say the least. However, I have kept busy and valued the time with family that this hiatus has offered. Staring at my boots and kicking the dirt has never been my way. I learned a long time ago that the only way forward is by looking up.