On Reflection.

Zupp. Flight on Reflection.
The humble Piper Arrow. VH-BME.

On reflection, there are many magnificent memories that come to mind after forty years of flying. Surprisingly, one that always rises to the surface is not a memory that you would necessarily expect.

My father was my flight instructor and the expression “tough but fair” is probably quite appropriate. He had been a military instructor and had an expansive knowledge of all things aviation which he was always ready to share. The walls of our family garage was adorned with chalk boards and I would sit for hours being briefed, re-briefed and de-briefed. Thorough was an understatement.

In the air, his manner was just the same. He pushed me hard and expected effort and dedication – with those ingredients, performance would come in time. It could be intimidating attempting to meet his standards but that was more a reflection of my own insecurities than any pressure coming from the right-hand seat. Those early days of training were tough but from those days comes one of my fondest memories.

I was tasked with flying a solo cross country exercise to hone my navigation skills. Fuel management, flight log, situational awareness, weather and radio calls were just some of the considerations that I had studied, planned and now sought to execute with polish. The departure from Bankstown and the first legs of the flight were without event as I busily attended to every task. Then, tracking south, to the west of the Great Dividing Range, everything seemed to change.

Rather than moving from task to task in and endless cycle, I found that everything was done and I had time to breathe. I scanned the compass and instrument panel – all good. I double checked my chart, flight log and upcoming radio frequencies – all done. Weather ahead, fuel status and engine parameters – all in order. I was well ahead of the aeroplane, freeing up my senses to taking in the magic of flight like never before.

As I drank in the world around me, a farmer below seemed to cast his eyes skyward. From his perspective, my little white single-engined aircraft would have seemed unremarkable. No major manoeuvres, no low pass, just another small aeroplane flying from A to B. From my seat, the fire trails, roads and paddocks formed a green quilt below be with an occasional creek threading its way through like a wayward cotton thread. The horizon was clear in the distance and sparsely spread cumulus clouds formed brilliant white cotton balls against a pure blue sky. This was flight at its very best.

Looking back, I think this moment was when all of the study, blood sweat and tears came together. The sense of joy was further heightened by my innocence as a pilot. While engine failures, deteriorating weather and other challenges were considered in training, their reality was still some time away. This day was sheer joy – joy that still stirs within decades later.

I have been fortunate to spend many hours in the sky in all manner of aircraft. From Antarctica to America and Micronesia to the Mojave Desert, I have been truly fortunate and constantly awestruck. And yet that simple flight from A to B stays with me to this day.

Zupp. Piper Arrow.
Reunited. BME at Geraldton W.A. In 2010.