When I started professional flight training back in the summer of 2000, I had dreams of leaving corporate America behind and moving from the cubicle world to controls of a jet aircraft. I wanted to walk away from the flourescent lights, boring meetings, high anxiety “dog-eat-dog” mentality, and pursue another way of being. I had dreamed of being a professional pilot from a very young age, but life seemed to divert me from that dream. Now the time was right, and after months of study, training, and multiple check rides, I finally achieved my dream, and I was a Certified Flight Instructor and a Commercial Pilot. I was now licensed to share the joy of aviation with others and better yet, to earn a living as I did so.
What I soon learned was that flight instructors are just like every other professional educator-we love what we do and we teach with passion and commitment, but we rarely earn enough to eke out a living. Flight instructors work long hours and the stress of flight instructing can be intense. The salary levels associated with this career trek are modest at best, and without at least a couple hundred hours of multi-engine time (at least back then) it was tough to get into the “better paying” career paths. Those
flying job opportunities, where one might fly checks for a freight company, get lucky enough to snag a right seat position as a Part 91 first officer in a King Air, or possibly get recruited into the airline pool existed back then, but God had another plan for me.
Fortunately I guess, several things got in the way of my career path as a professional aviator, but I am truly glad it did. The events of September 11th had an impact on aviation as a whole and the industry struggled for a while. Financially, I could not survive on the flight instructor’s salary. Lastly, I could not afford to finish up my multi-engine instructor rating, which would have allowed me to build enough multi-engine time to find the “right job.”
Then, there was God’s call on my life to serve in leadership in God’s church. I believe that all along, God was leading and directing me to where I am today. All of life is about the path we are on, the journey of enlightenment, education, and sanctification. My experience of teaching others to fly through the science and mystery of aeronautics, inspires me and informs how I teach others “to fly” by the sheer mystery of God’s Spirit moving in their lives.
I teach aviation and fly now, not as a means to a financial end, or even as a chosen career path. I fly today to relax, to experience the pure joy of sharing aviation with others, and to enjoy the amazing beauty of God’s creation from those lofty heights. My dream of being a pilot has never died, but it has taken a different path, a rather joyful unexpected path.
I was speaking with one of our youth from church, during the coffee hour the other day, and he shared with me that he had a dream of playing professional baseball. I looked at him and smiled and said, “Never let your dream die, always pursue it, and you will find joy. It may not look like you had planned, it may not take the well-worn path to an end, but in the end, if you stay true to your dreams and God’s will for your life, your dreams will lead you to joy.”