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My Live KATU Flight 370 broadcast presenation

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

FLYOSOPHY - What happens if children see what pilots see?

Flying alters your perspective on the world. Sometimes it alters your understanding of how others might see the world.

From the air, the grittiness of the world fades away. Garbage, graffiti, people with bad attitudes, traffic noise and congestion; all become part of that 'other world', the world you left behind and don't have to return to - yet.

Flying my Aeronca Chief through Southern California's Banning pass in the late 1980's I had a vivid reminder of the difference between the flying world and the everyday world form the ground. Since the Aeronca Chief cruises at around 70 miles per hour, things happen slowly, and can be more deeply appreciated.

Over the desert, the summer temperatures were sizzling and the sky was rich blue. I could see for miles in any direction and clearly see small details passing below on the ground. Passing into the Los Angeles basin, I found myself at 4,500 feet and just at the top of a haze and smog layer completely obscuring the ground. I needed to descend, and yet I found I did not want to descend. the sensation was of leaving something pure and clean and sinking into some unknown muck. Because of my slow descent, about 200 feet-per-minute, the transition occurred slowly. For a moment I was poised between two worlds, with the clear clean blue sky and the view of the endless mountains all around me and a frightening dirty surface I was about to enter.

Then I was in it, and was surprised by the sudden crisp, acrid, burning stench at that upper level of what I came to call the 'smogopause.' My eyes watered. and then the most amazing and terrible insight occurred. Once below the reflective surface of the smogopause layer, I could see through to the ground, through the 4 miles of visibility. Above the blue sky faded away, and my world became dingier and... normal. I turned the plane in a 360 degree circle and discovered I could no longer see the mountains behinds me, only about 8 miles away.

The sobering realization was that a child, entering the age of awareness of their surroundings and playing in their backyard, would have an entirely different impression of the world than I, and would not realize the air could be clear and blue, the view could be limitless and the smell of the air could be sweet and clean. I have no solutions to this, only the belief if these kids could see the world from above as I had that day, it would profoundly alter the way they thought about their world, and might alter their behaviors in it.

Onward & Upward! ~ rfb

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