The Secret Life of Souls

By Bailey Bickerstaff

Aviation, in my opinion, is one of the most unappreciated worlds unexplored by strangers to the field. We all fly on the big jets, but do we ever stop and look out the window? Watch the wings work? Have we ever appreciated the beauty of flight? Even more uncommon, do we ever stop and wonder who’s in the cockpit?

Many from the aviation world are born into it. Many are second or third generation pilots, those who have learned not from an intensive class, but from their fathers teaching them in an abandoned airstrip. While I am not a pilot, I have seen the linear generations of pilots, and I have concluded that aviation is a precious secret passed down from elders to eager amateurs. I myself am born into a family of aviators. My grandfather owned a 1940’s Cessna and lived in front of a small grass airstrip used primarily for crop dusters. He instilled in me a curiosity for flight, as he and I made it a daily routine to step outside and watch the hourly dispatch of crop dusters land, their chipped yellow paint still glistening in the sun. Though my grandfather was not, my father is a pilot by trade. He has been piercing the skies since before I can remember, and whenever I questioned his absence as a child, it was answered with “Daddy is flying the airplane”. Pretty soon after, I discovered the wonder that the sky entails, and I decided I too would continue the path of aviation, but as an air traffic controller.

Aviation is not just an occupation, but an entire world, just as the sky looks when you take off: an open expanse of blue sky. My father flies a private jet, and life is different for him. He flies families to pro athletics games and vacations in Mexico, sisters to re-unite with one another, friends to shop in the largest cities in the United States. Life is an incredibly different existence for those who can do things like this; the world flies to them, it seems. Though my father does not live like this, but rather works for these people, I think he considers it an honor to help these people get where they need to go. If nothing else is true about the aviation world, this is:  people do not get into the business for anything but a pure love of the sky.

I love this lifestyle. My favorite memories have been with those I love, flying in a six seat plane, laughing with my dad and his friends while working on airplanes at the airport, just sitting in silence while my father and I cleaned a jet. I feel safe when I can see a windsock. I know I am at home, with people who love me.

It has been said that people can see the some of you, but people rarely see the sum of you. I believe with all my heart that this is true. I can see this with my father. To most, he is just a guy with a job, he can fly, and perhaps people note upon his cycling accomplishments. To me, and to people who truly know him, he is an adventurer, an explorer, and a courageous athlete. My father is very good at keeping the sum of him concealed and hidden away, but despite his efforts, I can see glimpses of the sum of my dad, and let me tell you, it looks just like clear blue sky. So here’s to you, Dad. Thank you for being brave, upright, and a compounded sum of a beautiful soul. Here’s to hoping that your birthday is as every bit bodacious as you want it to be.

“Do you know that you have never really lived until you gave flown?”- Amelia Earhart

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