April 5, 2000

All my life it has seemed such a thrill to see Daylight Savings time come around each spring. Besides being another assurance that warm weather is coming, it has meant that there will be more time outside at the end of the day. More time to farm, cut wood, fly, or tinker, just to mention just some of my previous vocations. This year is different though. I am among the small percentage of the population that is genuinely inconvenienced by the time change.

All through the lingering winter of March I watched each morning as more and more of my return flight from Newark was in daylight. I could see the weather around me, and I could see the features of the ground below me. Weather is always a beautiful sight from a distance, but when you are surrounded by it, just a little peek reveals so much more than can be gleaned from the night- time routine of guess and grope. Last weekend's time change puts my morning flight back into the dark, but does nothing to brighten my evening flight.

Night flight is a more cerebral activity because weather and terrain information usually has to be deduced rather than merely observed. Daytime flying is generally more pleasant because there is less workload and there are more things to look at. The basic and central attraction to flight, after all, is the view... the view of familiar things from a different perspective and the view of so many things that are different entirely from things seen on the ground. Flight offers a vantage that has been fantasized since humans first looked skyward, but achieved only in this past century.

The earth below the airplane is spread out in a vast panorama on a nice day, but interestingly, the view that captivates most people is not the earth itself, but man's interaction with it. On the ground we walk through a gorge, and feel the coolness and are soothed by the babbling and swirling of the water as it courses through the turns and over the falls. We walk through the woods and smell the leaves and listen to the breeze rustling through the branches.

From an airplane we don't see the intricate weave of water flowing over stones, we don't hear birds singing, and we can't smell the woods. Even the Watkins Glen or Big Stream gorges seem insignificant, and look little different than any of the other forested clefts than ring our lakes. Instead we see the greater patterns of hills and valleys of the entire region, and we see how man has interacted with the topography

People usually find themselves looking more at the marks of mankind rather than the scenery of nature. I remember a trip down the Susquehanna, noticing mostly the farms at the tips of the meandering river bends rather than the river itself. I was looking not at the river, but what people had done with the river and how they had fit themselves around it. We like to comb the earth below for places that inspire our senses. We like to see what other people have done with their own little patches of the earth.

I will miss my newly gained daytime flight, but probably not while I am actually in the air. Flight is such an intense and varied experience that there are plenty of things to see, do, and contemplate regardless of the time of day or night. There will be some stormy nights and some starry nights, and soon the early mornings and long evenings of summer will be upon us. I'll probably miss the quiet romance of night flight.

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