Monday, October 11, 2010

Age, flying and risk

Pat and I amongst the clouds...

The other day, Garreth and I talked about flying and age. It was no coincidence talking about these interesting companions – I have been around long enough to know a few retired pilots myself. Of course our conversation was not about pilots and age but about the act of flying people that are not so young anymore. I mentioned to Garreth that some would consider my act of flying Pat as nothing but gross negligence and we pondered this notion.

Pat we guessed must be around 80 – I never asked her age but later friends let me in on it. I noticed her frailty when I helped her into the back seat but it really struck home after the flight – after I helped her out of the seat I had to support her while she regained her balance and footing. It took a while and it was during this time that I had a myriad of thoughts on the responsibility and the risk I was taking by allowing her into the back seat of the little orange plane. I cannot even begin to describe the depths of the compassion that flooded me at that moment too and it were these thoughts that really spurred my conversation with Garreth.
We jested of course about what family might say, “Are you crazy granny! You are too old to do this kind of thing. You might die..!”
“What do you mean I might die? I am dying right now! Come on sonny, lets get up there…” and we both chuckled about that.

Of course the reality is that when it comes to the aged we get hung up about risks far too much right at about the time when the other side of the coin should be considered more. We argued that it is worth considering the risk when you are young – losing one’s life at that stage is quite tragic, (not that we think it is not tragic for an elderly person to lose their life, just perhaps less so) but consider for a moment that for the aged the benefits become even greater. Making a tick on a bucket list is far more than a mark on a piece of paper. In the same way we will never really know what it must have meant to Pat, being up there, enjoying vistas and sensations for real that she had spent her whole life dreaming off. And what about the aftereffects of such an experience? Is the spirit lifted? Is life made lighter? Is living made more sensible? Surely all these things must be worth the possible chances of dying.

It was then that I remembered the movie ‘second hand lions’ and the truth struck me that there is value even in the act of dying. If I were aged and got the chance of dying while flying in a micro-light I would jump at it in a flash. It sure beats lying in some old age home waiting for death, hands down.

“Get out of my way sonny! I want to get into that seat!”

Wouldn’t you?

Wish you were here!

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