Since I have known Jim he has talked of his experiences flying to the Baja, seeing the whales, eating great food, beautiful views, etc. This year Jim invited me to go. There were going to be a few pilots from Skypark in Bountiful going as well, most of whom I am a relative stranger to.
At first I said yes… hell yes, let’s go! But as the trip got closer there were some obstacles for me. The Skyhawk is much slower than the other planes going and in my mind that meant I would be going in there when everyone else was down and busily enjoying the area. I am not a very “social” person and it can be uncomfortable for me to be around people I don’t know, especially people I respect (pilots) and even more uncomfortable when I need to perform well in the airplane for an audience of strangers I feel know much more than me. I don’t know if any of you get that way, but for me it can be crippling.
Still I was determined to not let simple and stupid fears get in the way of a potentially life changing experience. I got my customs’s sticker and added the Mexico insurance, I planned for the time away, studied the flight, and was generally nervous but also determined.
Another obstacle popped up in that there is a leg of the trip that is 400 miles in length. As you know, the Skyhawk (1977 with the 180hp) has a range of about 400 miles so…
One of the other pilots had long range tanks (90 gallons) and was willing to let me siphon gas out to make the leg, so I had no real excuse, however, this last bit was a major unknown in my mind… How would that work exactly? What if in all the fun I was forgotten about and planes departed? I imagined calling over the radio and the discussion going something like: “That’s okay let’s divert to airfield ‘X’ and we can take care of it there.” My level of discomfort spikes when the feeling of being unable to take care of myself without others is added. Being a burden… Flying into another country… Unknown conditions, with a bunch of strangers…. Yeah, I was at the breaking point.
It’s no surprise that one last excuse was enough to push me over the edge and cancel my participation in the trip: money. I reasoned that I would be better off staying and not pushing it financially so I casually called up Jim and “bailed” on the trip.
Jim and the guys came back with tales of fun and great experiences. I listened but was able to blow it off with no regret, being happy with my choice. Until one day I was out at Skypark and Jim asked me to help him with some trouble he was having editing his video of the trip. Jim’s got a very cool apartment in his hangar and the editing station is located there, so we walked over, sat down, booted up the computer and Jim hit “play.”
Jim was talking through the issue he was experiencing in Final Cut and I was listening to that when the image of the sunset came up, the music was playing lightly and I was drawn in. Jim was still explaining what he needed help with but I was reliving the chain of choices and excuses I made that led to self-exclusion from the trip to Mexico.
Jim’s a humble guy and if he takes a picture or makes a video, he automatically hates it and thinks it’s junk, but I was enthralled by the experience I was imagining as I watched, and deeply disappointed in myself. I knew what I was doing, that I was capable and that once I got back any discomfort would melt into the fog of happy memories, but I let myself sell all that for the cheap payoff of not stretching myself a little as a pilot, and as a person.
The reason I bring all this up is because I find that facing things like the experience with Mexico is a part of the experience of becoming a pilot. It seems to me that just getting the license does not make one a pilot, nor does being fearless and brash once you do. There is a small winding trail only wide enough for one to travel that a person must walk when striving to become a true pilot, a road with many blind corners, and all kinds of wilderness and dangers on both sides. The destination is not a stopping point, the trail never ends, in fact, it only gets more clever in the ways it obfuscates danger from you.
I strayed from the trail, actually, I jumped clean off the damn thing and hid in a bush. I don’t really concern myself too much with that other than to recognize that there are times on the trail when an obstacle or opportunity is out of my reach and therefore something I need to work on before traveling further. There are other times when an obstacle IS an opportunity when we have all the skills necessary, but can succumb to unfamiliarity, to an unhealthy fear rather than a healthy fear and we miss it.
I’ll have another shot at Mexico, and in a way, I go through the entire gambit of identifying obstacles from opportunities every time I drive onto that airport and open the hangar. It’s part of what I love about aviation, part of what I find addictive, a constant battle with yourself, a fight to become something better than we were before.
Enjoy the video and I would encourage all of us to try and enjoy a trip flying to Baja Mexico.
Baja Bush Pilots: If you are planning a trip down to Baja, these guys are a great resource for planning out your flight. They do have a membership cost but here are just a few of their benefits: