Something that really makes me smile is remembering the moments in life I decided to fly solo. I am sure we have all had this feeling of excitement and fear of the unknown and you may find you resonate with the journey I am about to take you on.
Flying solo is a part of personal development in our ever-evolving adventure of growth throughout our lives; but the memory brings back all the emotions as I remember the faith and joy I had in moving forward; although not easy to achieve, it is just a part of life’s challenging journey.
flying solo and comfort zones
It is something that has happened to me more than once in my progress as I endeavoured to do the best I was able to in the many different facets of my life – work, business, relationships, and in my passion for flying and other adventures I have dared to face on my journey. This is all encompassing – flying solo and being confident enough to just do it takes us out of our comfort zone. It makes our little heart pound, as we try to shut out the naysayers and the little people in our head, whispering woes of negative “what ifs?” as we become our ‘life pilot’ and not the passenger means trusting ones-self.
For me, my solo journey in life truly started at the age of 16 when I left home. For this I thank my parents for their trust in me, allowing me to ‘fly the coup’. That would have been hard for them after 16 years having me under their wing – I had decided I was ready to start my adult life! Finding myself out in the big wide world, a world I couldn’t wait to explore! I was bright eyed and bushy-tailed.
Flying solo (in the context of deciding to go it alone) has so many meanings and is a part of life, that is fairly common for most people, and for some people they prefer to fly solo in life, it’s a decision we make, be it conscious or unconscious, depending on our belief systems.
The physical action of literally flying solo (which my dad did in his early 20’s in his tiger moth and my brother did in a glider at 16) and me in my Texan 550 single engine plane ( at 42 years old) and taking the pilots seat was something I will never forget! It took me to heights I had never imagined and helped me to find it in myself the courage to map this experience across and really spread my wings in new directions in life and business as well.
Here’s a funny little story about trust.
Fasten your seatbelt
Put your tray tables up, there are no emergency exits. Stay seated and keep reading, follow my instructions you will always find a way out! …
While I was on my annual leave from Qantas (Where I was an international flight attendant for 12 years) I had decided to spend my 6 weeks of leave learning to fly a light plane. I had always wanted to do. I Justified spending the money by realizing I would rather spend my gallivanting around the World money on flying lessons instead, something I had wanted to do all my life.
This was a journey and adventure, not just a flying course. I had a funny feeling that things would be markedly different when I finished it. I had a gut feeling things wouldn’t be the same as they were when I started but I didn’t know how, I just knew things would be really different – and they were…
After 4 weeks of flying training, five days a week at GoFly and came the day, the day I was to spread my wings and do my first solo flight, (unbeknown to me) as I left home that day and the events that would unfold and challenge every part of me!
Started with a wobble
Early morning, there was hardly any air traffic, the airport was quiet, conditions were fine 5 knots on the windsock- the chief pilot came to do some circuits with me to “check me out” and give me the go ahead. As we turn on finals he said, “Make this one a full stop (in aviation terms land and taxi back to the hanger) I was happy with my landing and so was my instructor. I turned the aircraft around and started to backtrack on the runway, unbeknown to me my instructor was planning to get out of the aircraft and send me off solo. Then, the wheel started to wobble and broke! We hobbled back to the taxi-way, we both got out and pushed the aircraft to the hanger. The entire wheel was buggered. He looked at me and said, “You know what was next don’t you?” I said, “Solo?” he said, “Yes Solo!”
Take the pilot seat
Luckily for me, we just happened to have all the spare-parts we needed and between my instructor, the chief pilot and myself, we got the wheel changed and went out for a test flight – a touch and goes and we landed then we back-tracked on the runway this time everything was fine, wind came up a bit to about 10 knots and the chief pilot got out, announced to the airways, “Students first solo!” Gave me the thumbs up and he just looked at me and I said, “You want me to take her for a burl around the block?” He laughed and said, “Yes, off you go!” I felt excited and focused; I double-checked my check-list and I was totally ready, but I felt the entire Caloundra airfield and hangers looking my way for their entertainment for the day! Wow! What a feeling that was – a fabulous feeling of finally sitting in the pilot seat and flying Solo – woo hoo! Solo girl Yippee!
Through this process I liken it to taking the pilot seat in life, because what happened next in this story was quiet unexpected, and a twist of just trust and things will happen.
I continued to finish my pilot license. (I was currently endorsed on Texan 550 RAA Registered) and I was one week away from finishing my leave and going back to work with Qantas International. I had been thinking and saying out loud in general conversation to my instructor (who I had nick-named ‘Master Yoda’ from day one because he always had an amazing philosophical outlook on life’s little magic, and he did a great Yoda impersonation!). He heard me saying, “I would love to leave Qantas and work for myself blah blah….” I didn’t even hear myself saying it!
Its time to go
A week to go before I had to go back to work and I received a phone call from another flight attendant friend. She said to me, “I have decided to take the final package from Qantas and I am leaving.” But all I remember after that was……blah blah…. all that penetrated the brain was leaving Qantas, taking package…. I stopped and thought what package?? So, with that I was absolutely no use to her but, she was a loud fog horn blast for me….barrrrrrp saying, “Ok it is time to go, exit stage left, get your bags packed, we are off on a new adventure. My mind raced and so did my heart, I said, “Me too, I want to take the package.” Remember, she had thought long and hard about her exit plan and planned it, did the numbers and was leaving Qantas, whereas I, on the other hand, made a decision overnight to punch out. She said, “Well if you want to apply to take the package it closes tomorrow at 5 pm.” I got off the phone and said to my partner, “I think I am leaving Qantas! ” He paused and said, “Ok then let’s do the numbers.” I said, “Ok, but I am leaving, this is it! Time to go.” He was wide-eyed, realizing when I make my mind up about stuff….. there’s no turning me back. This would be a big change to our life-style, huge change! Going from an amazing, large steady income and security, to not knowing where the next dollar will come in or how.
Fear had crept in I was free-falling
The next day I rocked up to my flying lesson, I looked at my instructor (Master Yoda) and I said to him, “So my life has changed overnight ” with big eyes and a worried face. “What do you mean?” He said. “Well I am leaving Qantas taking the package, taking the money and running.” He had a big smile on his face, as I had tears running down my face, like I had lost someone significant in my life! He said, “Great that’s fantastic, that’s what you wanted!” I said, “I know… I think? It’s just such an unknown…” The fear had crept in and I felt like I was free- falling, after making that solid decision.
So, there I was teetering on the edge of what to do next. Open a cafe, be a Shiatsu therapist and use my Diploma in Oriental Medicines I studies part time while at Qantas or be a Life coach the list was endless I could do anything I wanted. My instructor even said, “Why don’t you become an instructor with us?” I was thrilled. So there it was – options everywhere opportunities opened up everywhere.
As soon as I closed the door from the past, I felt like I was standing in the corridor of a hallway of doors to go through, and it was a great feeling, only, I had to decide which one was the right door way. I had been unconsciously preparing for this change for a very long time: I had obtained a diploma in Shiatsu and oriental therapies, I had also studied NLP practitioner and become a qualified Hypnotherapist, so in theory I had all the tools to start my own therapy business.
However, it has taken me a year of trial and error, trying new things and change in health, life, business and it is wonderful. So much change in every facet of my life, and I am learning so much, and loving it.
So now I was launching off on another solo adventure, leaving my job after a lifetime of working for other people, big corporations, the military, always playing by someone else’s rules (or as I call it, ‘being institutionalized’, not in a bad way because I learnt a lot in the process). I had been so used to working for big business, learning other people’s systems, to now proceed to creating my own…. Just the thought of it overwhelmed me! However, increasingly I had been surrounding myself with people who had their own businesses and were flying solo in business and I had the tools, people and resources there to show me how it was done in my new world…
Slowly but surely, I am stretching my wings creating my own check-lists and systems, it’s just like piloting your own plane.
Here’s my little analogy
I taxi out in my little plane (making the decision to leave) I have a flight plan, sufficient fuel, maps and equipment. I have radioed my intentions to taxi out on a chosen runway having assessed the wind and conditions (making the decision to go a certain way) checking harness and hatches, asking myself is it safe to proceed? (Telling the people around you of your intentions of leaving your position, current situation, and that you are fully equipped to do this successfully and move away from the hanger on your own). Physically looking around listening, using all your senses, looking for things that might hold you up and opportunities that might make things easier for you, like reading the weather and what the conditions might be from other pilots, communication, and watching for things that might get in your path. Radioing your intentions to line up on the runway (broad-casting to your friends and family and marketing yourself outwardly for your next intention or commitment)….I have my clearance, I have deemed it safe from all the information I have available to me, and I am ready for take-off, and rolling….pullback gently on the stick to optimum take off speed and gently using your rudder to counteract the propeller and the wind effects glancing out at the horizon to keep your attitude on the horizon steady.
Dodging hazards, birds on take-off, (little hiccups that happen in a critical phase of flight) 300 ft flaps up 600 ft look around checking height. Glancing at your Attitude and Altitude, using all your tools glancing at your instruments occasionally.
Positive attitude creates altitude
Looking, listening and planning your next move checking, for other aircraft around you, broadly, not getting fixed on anyone of them too much, just moving forward at a constant speed, thinking about your flight plan ahead, on your planned flight, keeping a good awareness. Assessing and reassessing all the time with a positive attitude creating a nice rate of climb.
Engine failure & systems
What happens if you lose your engine? It’s all about Positive Attitude (angle or pitch of the aircraft) that controls your airspeed. If you lose momentum, you adapt your best glide speed then you can assess and glide yourself to safety, using effective clear use of controls, systems and strategys and communication to those around you and land safely with out an engine it can all happen very fast so it is important to have your systems and strategys inplace so if you do loose momentum you can still glide to safety. And that means practice so you know them off by heart.
As a Flight attendant we had 6 mthly revals for emergancy proceedures and those systems and proceedures were effective and we knew them well. When we stepped on that aircraft we knew automaticly what to do because we had systems in place, there was a proceedure for every situation and our focus was safety for self and others. So now you can see what ever you do in life it is always good to have proceedures in place so that if you have a sudden change you can evaluate and pull your resources to get you down safely. What wver we do in life has a little system in place even a system that is unconcious in the morning of how you like to have your breakfast.
Fly the plane first
keep your focus on the job, If something goes wrong check your systems, as they say in the aviation world Aviate (Fly the plane first) Navigate, communicate. Assess why things went wrong and try again….. You see what I mean, it’s all relevant. Never, ever stop flying the plane.
My approach to “Flying solo”, I believe, is very relevant to life and what can happen in life’s flight plan. It’s not always in smooth conditions, sometimes there are bumps, and bad weather that where unforeseen on your internal radar and you might have to adjust your internal compass and go in a different direction but if you have a destination in mind you will eventually make it but it might take a diversion or two before you get there, but stay focused dont give up and fly the plane first scaning your instrumants use all your resources internatally and exterally.
Breath Taking moments
Breath taking moments are gifts of nature and smooth greeser landings are a bonus and very much achievable, if you set yourself up and plan correctly. Other times there are traffic obstacles and rules we have to abide by that perhaps we don’t agree with but we still have to do it to play the game, keep it safe for yourself and the people around you.
I will never forget the first time I flew my First solo but I will also never forget how it happened and how quickly my life changed through my training. And throughout all of this I always had a choice to take the challenge or the not, it is all about trust in yourself and others using the systems available to you and stay focused on the task and communicate positively to self and others.
Reflection – just take the first step
Being an International flight attendant for 17 years with different companies has given me tools I was not aware of, till I stepped out on my own. It was difficult at times not to just go and work in a cafe as hospitality has been my life. I decided that if I was going to make the most of this opportunity I created for myself to make a significant change in my direction and be a therapist, I had to take the steps to play a game that on paper I was qualified for, but until you’re doing it, you just don’t know how it’s going to look.
It’s been 2 and a half years now since I left my life, under the wing of the corporate world and I look back at my first year as a soloist and I am grateful for the journey, the people and the experiences and not a day goes by that I don’t thank myself for seeing the signs given to me, that it was time to go and play another game, this time I make the rules and be the boss! (an unknown flight path for me to navigate)
As difficult as it may seem, it just takes the first step. I am not advising you to do as I did, please no! But to know that if you trust in yourself and you have a goal no matter how big or small it is, it is ok to step out of the norm and do the thing you love, even if society says it can’t be done. You won’t know till you try. Someone once said to me, “But what if you fail?” I said, “Well at least I tried… and would try again until I get it right!” The one advice I would give is to have a destination to navigate to, it doesn’t matter that you can’t see what it looks like just know that if you think it, then you can create it, just trust.
It was Henry Ford said about success “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t — your right!” just look in your garage for the proof, because it might just be a Ford or may not be a Ford but it was the beginning of a concept.
Lovingly written by Linda McCall