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November 26, 2014

Your Head’s in the Clouds, Where’s Your Heart? Giving Thanks to the Aviation Community

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Written by: Eric Auxier
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The Kevlar flight deck door shuts our world off from yours. In our “sterile cockpit,” we push buttons and flip switches, and do all sorts of pilot-y, left-brained stuff to get you safely from Point A to Point B. But rarely to we get to meet you, the passenger, let alone connect with you. Behind our bulletproof door, we rarely realize, ride hundreds of people. Hundreds of stories.

Me n Future Pilots!During boarding, however, the door to our vault is open. Once in awhile, I hear a high pitched, “Whoa!” and look back to see a child, gawking in wonderment at the magical spaceship that is my cockpit. I always smile and, if there’s time, invite them up front, to sit in the Capn’s seat.

I always wonder if this very act will trigger that latent avgeek gene, creating a future airline pilot. Just as the very same act inspired me, at age 8, in the cockpit of a Hughes Air West DC-9.

This month, Americans celebrate one of the biggest national holidays, second only to Christmas. It is called, “Thanksgiving,” and is a day for giving thanks for all of our blessings. So, I ask you, what are YOUR blessings?

Never-Too-Young-I have to admit, I have been blessed far more than many. As an airline pilot, I’m one of the lucky few. I grew up in a loving, stable home, never moved, and—by luck as much as anything—achieved a level of success to which many many aspire but few attain. I’ve lived a wonderful life of adventure, but suffered little trauma. I count my blessings.

That is a big reason why I started writing: to share with others the joy and passion that has been my wonderful life in the sky. There were so many stories pent up inside me, they simply came spilling out on the page. Through words, the “chairborne” get to experience what many can only dream of: a life in the sky.

I started writing with the desire to give back to a world that has so richly blessed me. But the desire to give has unexpectedly returned the blessings many times over, and in unexpected ways. Through writing, I have made hundreds of friends around the world.

And every single one has a fascinating story to tell.

Dillon Jessica CThere is an old saying that goes, “I used to complain that I had no shoes, until I met someone who had no feet.” No matter who we are, there are others that have it better than us . . . and yet others who have it far, far worse. Even so, those people we consider less-advantaged can take us completely by surprise, and rise up to accomplish far more than what even we though possible of our own selves.

There’s Jessica Cox, my all-time greatest aviation hero. Jessica is the world’s first licensed pilot with no arms. By her own bootstraps, she has pulled herself off her feet and into the sky. She now travels the world as a motivational speaker. Feeling pity for yourself? This young woman, with a black belt in two forms of Tae Kwon Do, will set you straight.

This summer, I had the great honor of interviewing Jessica for an article and video. Her documentary, Rightfooted, is in the final stages of production. Looking for a worthy cause? For as little as $5, you can help Jessica complete it, to help inspire millions like her worldwide, at rightfooted.com.

Dillon TV InterviewThere’s my good buddy “Cap’n Dillon,” a young man with unbound enthusiasm for life, who refuses to let his Cerebral Palsy get in the way of his aviation dream. Once you meet Dillon, you will never forget him. Nor he, you. He will remember your name and story years later, even if you only briefly shook his hand.

Since I told Dillon’s story, other pilots have reached out to offer him rides in warbirds, Stearmans, and the like. Dillon’s charm even worked its magic on a jaded TV reporter, who enthusiastically shared his story on the airwaves. To watch Dillon’s innocent enthusiasm melt that skeptical man’s heart was an amazing scene to witness.

SkylaTo find ways to make Dillon smile has become an addiction, not only for me, but for anyone who has ever met him.

The magical call of aviation breaks down our arbitrary barriers, such as age. On the same day, I had two unique visitors to the cockpit. First was 12-year-old, Skyla Rose, who already had three flight lessons under her belt, and was laser-focused on an airline career. On the same day, I transported Ron, aged 67, on his very first flight above terra firma.

Kelvin 1

Kelvin, studying in the streets.

Kelvin, a young man in Tanzania, inspired me, and hundreds of readers like him, when he sent a photo of himself, studying his aviation books by the light of an alley trash fire. Touched by his photo, I sent him a signed copy of one of my novels. In return, he sent me a heartwarming photo reading the book to his nephews. Soon after, I received a two-page, hand-written letter from Kelvin, explaining how I had inspired him to pursue his aviation dream. I could not get through the letter with a dry eye.

I don’t know how Kelvin will succeed in such an impoverished country, but I know this fine young man is destined to make it to the cockpit. Like Skyla, he has what it takes.

Morgan before:after

Morgan, before and after her diagnosis.

Recently, a reader named David H, a giant of an airline ramp worker with an even bigger heart, brought to my attention the story of a beautiful young lady named Morgan. Dreaming of becoming a flight attendant, Morgan’s life has instead been shattered by a debilitating disease. Diagnosed with Dysautonomia with POTS and NMH, 20-year-old Morgan has been confined to a wheelchair as her body slowly shuts down.

After sharing her story with my readers, aviation fans around the world rallied to write Morgan to cheer her up. As a certified avgeek, I ask that you join our campaign in flooding Morgan’s inbox with well-wishes. Send a card, letter, photo, anything to show this lovely young lady how big our aviation heart is. Rarely in your life will you undertake such a simple task that will mean so much. She can be reached at:

Morgan M., PO BOX 16102, Rocky River, OH 44116 USA

 

Oshkosh-young oldWhen I visited EAA Airventure’s magnificent weeklong avfest—simply known as, “Oshkosh”—for the very first time this year, I was struck by one recurring theme: it wasn’t the planes that told a story, it was the people. The more I write about my mechanical adventures in the sky, the more I have learned this basic fact.

Without a human at its heart, an airplane is just a pretty hunk of metal sitting dead and dormant on a piece of tarmac. It’s the pilots—the people that man the ship—that are the true engines that propel it, the wings that give it lift. The demigod that breathes life into an otherwise dead body. Without a pilot at the controls, and without the passengers in back, there would be no adventure.

Next time you fly an airplane, use that left brain of yours. But open up your eyes to the right brain as well. Open your heart. You will not only become a better pilot, your life will be blessed with untold riches. For life is so much more than an adventure in the sky. The true adventure lies in the heart

Stay avgeeky, my friends.

Books Collage Lo 320x240pixEric “Cap’n Aux” Auxier is an airline pilot by day, writer by night, and kid by choice. An A320 Captain for a major U.S. airline, he is also a freelance writer, novelist and blogger (capnaux.com). His second novel, The Last Bush Pilots, captured the coveted Amazon TOP 100 Breakthrough Novels in 2013. His new book, “There I Wuz! Adventures From 3 Decades in the Sky” will be available on Amazon Kindle in June and in print in July.  Mr. Auxier makes his home in Phoenix, Arizona.



About the Author

Eric Auxier





 
 

 

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