December 8, 2004

I didn't know why I went flying Saturday. The weather wasn't supposed to be good, but by Friday night, the forecast had started to show a promise for the day ahead. Saturday dawned clear, cold, and calm, with winds forecast to behave until afternoon.

I shuffled around the house as the sun's rays started pouring over the ridge to our east. I wanted to fly, but I also felt it was important to stay home and work on "stuff". Finally I decided that I would go up to the airport and get the plane ready to fly, and then decide what to do. I knew It needed fuel and oil, and a just a tad of fixin'. If I didn't fly Saturday, the plane would be all set to go for next time.

I went through all the motions, from scraping the car windshield at the start of the trip, to checking the plane's tail wires at the end of the preflight. I was ready to go flyin' or return home. I hadn't built any particular enthusiasm, but I finally decided that if I had a day like this in February, I would feel like I had received a gift. I cranked up the airplane and rumbled off to the northwest for breakfast.

It was as though fate had delivered me to a seat within arm's reach of the Rochester paper. I read it with a cup of coffee while I waited for my order. I happened across a letter to the editor titled "Celebrate Winter", and my thoughts quickly mingled with the author's words as I read along.

In this part of the world, the author wrote, we know about snow and cold... Maybe not as much as some areas of the country, but a lot more than most places. We grew up playing in this kind of weather, and as adults, our aggravation with winter is tempered by our childhood memories of snow angels, sledding, and morning scenes of thick fresh snow; snow which was sure to close school for the day.

As I flew home I continued to think of this letter, and I continued to cast it against the resentment that I feel towards the season. I thought of loading freight the previous morning amidst one of the season's first snow squalls. Everyone became plastered with snow on their "windward" sides, and the pavement turned slushy. The visibility dropped so low that Rochester was reduced to a one-runway airport.

I guess that I would feel different about the season if I could look out the window and decide which job... if any... I would do that day. The business of aviation is all about time, and lost time is the same as lost money. Much like the guys who climb the electric poles after a winter storm, or the guys who have to go down into muddy holes to repair bursted water mains, I have to be out in the middle of the weather. I can surrender to it, but only after getting cold and wet, or by scaring myself half-to-death trying to make a go of it. Even then, the job waits only until the weather starts to change for the better.

It took me many years to understand that winter is a time for young folks. The things which once were refreshing challenges are now uncomfortable chores. Winter was finally stricken from my list of fun things when I started flying a schedule. To summarize briefly, any time that the weather sticks to the airplane, flight becomes a lot less fun and a lot more work.

I think it is time to re-examine my attitude towards winter. The weather will come and it will go. There will be bad days, but worrying about them will only extend the miseries they cast upon me.

This winter, like the others that have come before it, will also pass. There will be plenty of discomfort and annoyance which will be forgotten quickly, and a few flights which will be "really interesting". There will be plenty of flights, even weeks at a time, which pose no challenges. There is no sense to letting a few bad days spoil half our year.

I promise to admire the artful swirl that the wind puts into the snow that it carries, and to admire the tall drifts that it leaves behind. I will marvel at the shimmer of icicles and at the sparkle of ice covered trees on a bright hillside at dawn. I will even marvel at the colored lights that reach up through the snow, as the plane approaches for landing. I promise to spend dark cold nights and snowy days in my workshop, and to remind myself that I am enjoying the slow time that seemed so attractive all last summer.

The letter concluded with an inspiring first step for us folks who have trouble with winter: "Yes it is dark, but that only makes the Christmas lights shine more brightly".

Plane Talk Archives
Return to Home Page
E- mail Bob Tilden at