Addicted to Flight

13 Dec

Hi.  I’m Stew Campbell and I’m addicted to flying.  (HI STEW!)

As most of you I’m sure know, I’m a frequent flyer for business.  On American Airlines, I’ve logged 1.4 million miles so far, got that letter from the AAdvantage program to “congratulate” me on reaching the 1 million mile mark and bestowing permanent LIFETIME Gold status on the frequent flyer program.  On other airlines including United, Delta, US Air, Southwest and others, I probably have logged an additional half-million.

Most people abhor business travel … I openly admit that I love it.  I like going places, seeing people, but most of all, I like … being in the sky.  Professional pilots call it “The View from the 35th floor” – a reference to the view from 35,000 feet.

I think my flight mojos stem from my grandfather, Mel Campbell.  Mel was an adventurer before that term was popular.  He set himself three “bucket list” goals for his life – fly a plane, climb a mountain and skydive (they called it “parachuting” back then.)  He achieved 2 of the 3 before a heart condition curtailed his adventures. Although he once told me that after he learned to fly and owned an airplane, he decided it didn’t make a lot of sense to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.  I’m not quite the adventurer he was, but I certain love the flight.

If I’m on a United flight (even though I really dislike that airline) I’m always the guy with the headset tuned to channel 9 to listen to air traffic control.  I prefer window seats to aisles so I can enjoy the view and more importantly to me, follow our flight’s progress.  The advent of onboard wifi has really increased my flying fun, with being able to follow my flight’s progress on FlightAware.com’s website.

I’ve owned every version of MS Flight Simulator, and probably have hundreds of hours of flight time there – learning procedures, understanding navigation, etc.  Which, I learned last year, directly contributed to my ability to actually fly a plane.

And, as sick and weird as this sounds, I even like airports.  Go figure.

In the last two years, I’ve really rediscovered my joy of light aircraft flight.  First, my son organized a fantastic Father’s Day/Birthday gift in 2010 – I was having a tremendous amount of stress at work, was aggressively seeking new opportunities and had been for close to three years, and well, he saw that and thought that perhaps I needed some altitude therapy.  He purchased a “total immersion” flight experience for me at a local flight school – 2 1/2 hours of aviation fun that included more than an hour of flight time where I controlled the plane from take off to just before landing.

That day was like a rebirth for me.  In that two hours, I ditched pretty much ALL the stress I had been feeling, and left it in the propwash.  It was an incredible, “severe clear” day over Chicago – CAVU in pilot talk – Clear and Visibility Unlimited.  83 degrees and sunny, barely any wind, almost no turbulence and insanely clear air.  My flight instructor spent the entire flight with his hands off the controls except for the last half mile to the landing.  He called me an “instinctive pilot” – and even wanted me to fly the landing although I didn’t choose to.   I chalk it up to years of enjoying of flight, and years of flying my computer around.

In the last few months, I’ve been the beneficiary of flights with my friend Ira.  Ira also decided it was “time to fly” in the last few years – and because he has the financial means to do so, and a business reason to support it, he earned his private certificate, purchased a Piper Arrow airplane, and he’s flying!  He’s a very careful pilot, and very skillful – always in control and always seeking to make sure he’s flying by the book – much like I would envision myself to be.  Both flights we’ve done recently have been on beautiful days, although a bit windy, so I am re-learning a bit how to tolerate turbulence in a small airplane – it doesn’t really bother me in airliners, but in the little ones, it makes me jump a bit.  But each time I’m up, I’m a bit better with it.  I like to think that if I were at the controls, it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

Will I ever spend the time and money to get my own certificate, and even better, my own aircraft?  Remains to be seen.  But know this.  I always like that view and I’ll seek to get it as often as I can.

Here’s the photo album from my flight lesson day:  FLIGHT LESSON 

And, pictures from my flight with Ira this past weekend.  ONE LAP OF CHICAGO

As you were,

Stew

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2 Responses to “Addicted to Flight”

  1. carpetbagger December 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Very cool. My boss flies. Never flown with him though. He’s a little absent minded sometimes and that worries me a bit.

    Went up in a small plane with a friend out in West Chicago once to photograph some property. He let me take the stick for a bit. Then, we flew in tight circles over the property and I got pretty green (probably from looking through the spinning camera lens). Kept my s*#t together though. Didn’t want to ralph in that small cabin. It felt like a VW with wings.

    • Stew's Brew December 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      VW with wings is being generous. These aircraft are definitely built for smaller people – I always feel very claustrophobic in them. My friend Ira’s airplane feels about as roomy as an MG.

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