A View From Above


Mon, Sep 6, 2010

Off Campus

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to experience once of the greatest activities known to man – the freedom of flight. After 2+ years, 89 flight hours, and more dollars than I would care to count, I joined the storied ranks of the aviators by completing the requirements for my Private Pilot License on August 25th.
“…Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence…”

Thousands of years ago, ancient people marveled at the birds and envied their ability to soar high into the sky and seemingly defy gravity. Aircraft have come in many sizes and shapes since man’s first powered flight in North Carolina in 1903, but man’s ultimate goal has always been to fly with the birds.

“…Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…”

When I first started talking about being a pilot as a young teenager, one of my leaders in Boy Scouts – a fellow pilot himself – warned me against entering pilot training.  I vividly remember him telling me … “Jason, don’t ever become a pilot – it’s the most addicting thing you can possibly do. As soon as you experience your first flight, you’ll be hopelessly tied to an extremely intoxicating, and incredibly expensive, lifestyle.”

I persisted in my love of flying, and he eventually invited me to take a flight with him in his small airplane. It was an absolutely incredible experience… the view from 3,000 feet, the feeling of hanging in the air, even the airsickness, can only be described as incredible. After firmly planting my feet back on terra firma (and letting my breakfast settle back into its original position), I decided that I was hooked.

“…Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew…”

I began my flight training over two years ago at the Air Force Academy. Not only was I experiencing the freedom of flight, but I was learning to fly in the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Absolutely nothing compares to seeing the Purple Mountain’s Majesty from 14,000 feet.

“…And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

- Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., 18 August 1941

N1401E - "Rally 14"

N1401E - "Rally 14"

My experiences during pilot training were certainly memorable. I know I share many of these experiences with every pilot who went through basic pilot training. From the first time I stalled the airplane on purpose…

You, you, and you … Panic. The rest of you, come with me.

- U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant

…to the time I got lost on a solo flight at 13,000 ft…

You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3.

- Paul F. Crickmore (SR71 test pilot)

… to the first time my instructor reached over and turned off the engine to see how I would react to a “simulated engine failure”.

When the engine in your airplane starts to fail, you always have just enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.

- Basic Flight Training Manual

Flying is one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had, and earning my pilot’s license is one of my biggest accomplishments. It’s truly a privilege to join the ranks of the “men who are lighter than air”.

Mankind has a perfect record in aviation – we have never left one up there!

- Unknown Aviator

This post was written by:

- who has written 14 posts on In Our Words….

I'm a senior at WPI, majoring in Aerospace Engineering program and minoring in Music. I live in Colorado Springs, CO, but I've spent much of the last few years in the great Northeast. I spent the second term of my junior year completing my Interdisciplinary Project (IQP) at the WPI project center in Venice, Italy. I'm planning on completing my Major Project (MQP) this year working with a team of students to design and launch a miniature "CubeSat" satellite. I'm involved in clubs in just about every area at WPI. A lot of my time is taken up by Air Force ROTC cadet activities, including the AFROTC honor society (called Arnold Air Society), and the AFROTC Color Guard and Drill Team. I am also a trombonist in WPI's Stage Band and the President of the WPI JazzGroup. I work part-time as an Intern in the Admissions Office at WPI interviewing prospective students and hosting information sessions (so look for me when you stop by Admissions!). I also play for the WPI club tennis team. When I do have free time (which doesn't happen very often), I like getting out of the classroom and doing things outdoors. As an Eagle Scout, I like hiking and camping in the hills of Massachusetts and New Hampshire during the summer, and I'm an avid skiier in the winter.

2 Responses to “A View From Above”

  1. Jane Gabriel Says:

    Your newly acquired pilot’s license is just one more accomplishment in your ongoing list of amazing achievements. We are so very proud of all that you have accomplished, especially the reaching of this goal, which allows you to soar on eagles’ wings. Enjoy the ride!

    Mom and Dad

  2. Joseph Says:

    I know the feeling. At 30 I had 183 hours of flight and most of it during the summer.
    Flying is the ultimate feeling of control and freedom in the same time.