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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Fly the Damn Plane

by John White |

Piper For Learning To FlyIn the first of a four-part story about learning to fly, an acclaimed novelist takes the controls of an aircraft for the first time. And he's scared to death. An interesting series of articles will appear in Popular Mechanics over the next four months by Joshua Ferris about his experience in learning to fly. He is the author of three novels, including "Then We Came to the End" and "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour". Here is how the first installment begins:
I was terrified. I don't mean occasionally. I mean that terror, as an emotion, as a prevailing mood, had overtaken my life. I woke in the night gulping for air, my heart going faster than ever. Why? Another bad dream. It was 3:13 a.m. There was no getting back to sleep. In that dark and terrible hour, I thought dire things. From where did the terror spring? How could I put it back in the bottle? I didn't know. I couldn't trace it back to any one thing. I was about to turn 40. Was that it? In the end, I assumed it was death. Death, for me, is bound up in everything: my fear, my ambition. Humor, sex, the urge to travel. Death is why I shouldn't drink. Death is why I do. Last summer, I watched my dad die. That might have been the source of it. I saw him laid out upon a hospice bed in the library of his house in Park Ridge, Illinois. It left me feeling more vulnerable than usual. Or perhaps—and this was the most terrifying thought of all—the terror sprang from nothing and was here to stay. That summer was a good one for terror. ISIS. Ebola. The kidnappings by Boko Haram. Russians invading Ukraine. Israelis and Palestinians at war again. The police shooting in Ferguson and the mess that followed. Warnings of drastic climate change and continued odd weather. I saw birds flying what seemed like meaningful patterns and I thought nothing was immune from the taint of terror. So what did I do? I decided to learn how to fly.


To go up in the air inside a machine is a very stupid thing to do. It is also transcendentally cool and extremely practical. We go up for sport. We go up for commerce. We go up for war. We go up so effortlessly and routinely these days that it's easy to forget what it entails: the elevation of a mighty payload of metal and fuel, with souls aboard, by the incorporeal air. Physics says it's possible over and over again on the departures board at JFK, but common sense stubbornly insists that it's just plain dumb.
You can see the first part of this four part series at: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Fly the Damn Plane. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

About John White

John White a/k/a JetAviator7 is an ATP pilot with an MBA in business who enjoys all things aviation and as an online entrepreneur loves providing exceptional products combined with exceptional personal service. Find out more about John on Google+

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