I was beginning to see a trend. Finishing
is rarely easy.
Sitting in the back of that DC- 7, I knew
I had two unfinished projects back home.
One of these was the ribs of the plane
I’m building. I had been on the “last leg”
of making those aluminum ribs for about
six months, and despite steady work, I
started to wonder if I was making any
progress at all.
This feeling is exactly what I experienced when also first trying to fly spot
landings. Flight after flight with no improvement; if anything, my landings were getting
worse. I had hit a wall, a plateau; whatever
you call it, it is the point where it becomes
the easiest to give up. Thankfully I trusted
my instructor and soon saw just how much
progress I was making.
The other unfinished project back home
was my private pilot certificate. What
should’ve only taken eight flights or so to
bump up from a sport to private pilot was
spread out over nine months of a flight here,
a flight there. Again, not my dream plan.
Flying is the easy part
about learning to fly.
It’s the perseverance,
motivation, and willingness
to work around obstacles
that’s the hard part.
I eventually put my rally cap on, flew
three consecutive days to polish my air
work, and scheduled a date with the examiner. We completed the oral portion of my
checkride the day before I was to leave
for Florida to meet Jeff and the DC- 7.
Unfortunately, 400-foot ceilings postponed
any flying until after my travels.
So there I was sitting in the back of this
beautiful old airliner, having a pity party for
myself because I had an unfinished rating,
unfinished ribs, and unfinished work projects, which I had intentionally put on hold
to finish my rating. Everything in my life felt
unfinished. I had a bad case of the unfin-
That’s why Jeff’s midnight perseverance
was just the encouragement I needed. Flying
is the easy part about learning to
fly. It’s the
and willingness to work
around obstacles that’s the
is true for
ribs in the
Making airplane parts is
easy; it’s the dedication required to get in the
basement on a regular basis that makes it a
challenge. But that challenge is precisely
what makes it worthwhile.
There’s a reason not everyone is a pilot,
and it’s not because flying is hard.
According to a recent AOPA study,
“Approximately 60 percent of those who
earn a student pilot certificate never earn a
higher pilot certificate (e.g., private, recre-
ational, or sport). And many more drop out
before ever obtaining a student pilot certifi-
cate—placing the overall dropout rate at an
estimated 70 to 80 percent.”
Those figures are extremely sad but not
surprising to me given my recent bout with
the unfinished blues. If you’re battling the
blues right now, know that you’re not the
only one. Watching Jeff and other aviators
work hard to push through obstacles in their
flying endeavors reminded me that none of
this is going to be handed out on a platter.
Wings are earned.
If you’ve started a project or a rating
that has since gone stale, don’t hang your
head. All of your fellow EAA members
have encountered similar obstacles—that’s
part of being an aviator. Instead, go to a
pancake breakfast, start asking your
buddies if you can help them in their shop,
or just become an airplane bum and fly
with other folks every chance you get. You
might be amazed how a simple flight in
the back of someone else’s plane might
give you just the
spark you need.
home I scheduled
with the examiner
to finish what I
started. This time
I almost expected
an obstacle of one
sort or another to
rear its head, and
it wasn’t long
before one did.
asked me to
meet him at an
airport I had never heard of
located in a part of the state I had never
been to—not my ideal scenario for a check-
ride. However, something inside me had
changed. I was genuinely excited about
the challenge of doing my checkride in a
completely unfamiliar area. I no longer
expected there to be such a thing as obsta-
cle-free, challenge-free flying. It doesn’t
exist. Embracing this truth made chal-
lenges, which are certain to arise,
There’s a one-word change in my sig
line this month that I am incredibly proud
of. However, there’s something I’m more
proud of, and that is what occurred, at least
in part, in the back of that DC- 7 as Jeff was
burning the midnight oil (literally)—I
matured as an aviator.
Landing is the greatest thrill because it’s
the most challenging. Whatever your finish
line may be, push through. The finishing will
be worth every bit.
Brady Lane, EAA 808095, is a multimedia
journalist for EAA and a private pilot. Visit
www.SportAviation.org for a link to his blog where
you can watch him work on his plane live every Tuesday
evening. To contact Brady, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.