In times past, for generations the sons of blacksmiths became blacksmiths and the offspring of farriers became farriers. Today, sons and daughters can follow their mothers and fathers onto the flight decks, if they so choose. Both Kirrily and I being examples of this, with our fathers having been RAAF aviators before entering civil aviation.
This being said, we believe that it is very important that children are supported in the road that they choose to follow and not pushed into some misconceived family tradition. However, when one of them does show interest, we are at least in the fortunate position of understanding the industry and offering some degree of guidance. And so it was when our son undertook his first flying lesson, this week past.
With my current medical grounding, I was never going to be able to fly with him but I was in a position to offer him a long briefing on that first lesson we all undertake – “Effects of Controls”. Primary flight controls and effects, secondary effects, the effect of power, ancillary controls, pitch, roll and yaw. Oh, the memories. We chose to fly at Orange Flight Training (OFT), west of Sydney, for a number of reasons. Firstly, a good friend of mine, John, who had been a RAAF instructor (QFI) in a previous life, is an instructor there. Secondly, the weather, terrain and taxi times are friendlier and finally, it allowed my son and I a couple of hours of quality time chatting as we drove westward. That time is golden when your kids are teenagers.
When it came time to fly, I slipped to the back of the briefing room and became the proverbial fly on the wall. This too was a great experience, watching my son answer questions and ooze enthusiasm as I had done all of those years ago. His level of knowledge was no doubt enhanced by his early years with the Australian Air League (AAL) before his current membership of the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC).
Dad and Me. (Circa 1974)
I stayed in the background by the taxiway as he got underway and then climbed away. I wandered past the gable markers and peered through the cracks in hangar doors as he carved up the sky, somewhere to the south. I’d check my watch, pace a little and check my watch again. There was not an ounce of nervousness, rather I couldn’t wait to see his reaction to taking the controls for the first time. Soon the buzz of the Rotax engine overhead signalled his return, the lesson concluding with a couple of touch and go circuits being demonstrated. With the lesson over, the canary and black Bristell taxied past with John offering a wave and my son’s eyes focused ahead, his feet undoubtedly at work on the rudder pedals.
I began my walk back across the grass and the occasional mushroom to where the propeller had come to a halt and the front-hinged canopy had been raised. A discussion was still underway between instructor and student, the latter leaning in to capture every word. Then there was a pause in the conversation and my son looked toward me with the broadest of grins.
Whether he pursues this road for fun, or as a career, will be his choice alone, but I knew that look and it seemed like only yesterday that I was the student. After all of these years, I am still enthralled by flight but I also recognise that perhaps the baton is being passed to the next generation, just as it was to me.
Fly safe everyone.