As I liftoff from the runway in Orlando enroute to Phoenix, I start a turn as directed by Air Traffic Control (ATC). As the turn progresses, I see we will pass through a few clouds lingering south of the airport. I pause for a second and think how flying blind through cloud layers has become so much a routine part of aviation nowadays. We do it almost without thinking about it. Earlier this week, after flying with my daughter who was practicing for her instrument checkride, I have had the opportunity to reflect yet again on how we today benefit so greatly from the hard work of the trailblazers in the early days of aviation.
In the past, clouds were to be avoided at all costs. Instruments had not yet been developed to allow pilots to fly their aircraft with certainty and precision with no reference to the earth's horizon. Without a reference to fly by, the human balance system will lull a pilot not flying on instruments into turning upside down and losing control. Clouds meant almost certain peril. Pioneering work by famed aviators such as Wiley Post and Jimmy Doolittle made safe operation inside a cloud a possibility. Because of the risks these early pilots took to prove their ideas would work, today people who have no idea how planes can fly in weather can still enjoy the advantages of what has become a routine operation.
And so can my daughter. She passed her check ride this week, one of many she will have to pass as she earns the ratings and experience necessary to someday apply here at Southwest Airlines. Though I received my flying training in the Air Force, the effort and energy required along my own career path has been considerable at times. Looking back across a quarter century of flying experience, I marvel at the energy of youth. Her training will cover years of effort, thousands of hours aloft, and cost her well in excess of $100,000 but there is no doubt where she wants to be....
Inside a blue and orange jet.Inside a cloud.