To many, going from flying to dancing seems strange. I mentioned it to novelist, Jerome Charyn, whom I met only once. “They have a lot in common.”
“True, but I never thought of it."
After WW II, I wanted to keep flying but not for an airline flying from point A to Point B. Anyway, there were thousands of ex-pilots but no airlines. I joined the Air Force reserves, managed one flight in an AT-6 advanced trainer for fighter pilots, but soon, immersed in dancing, I had no time to keep up my air hours or spend three weeks a year on active duty. Got out just before the Korean War and wonder what life would have been like if I'd re-upped, flown in Korea, etc.
Flying in the army was an adventure, not just combat, which did have a strange attraction, but all the time. To keep an air rating, pilots had to fly a minimum four hours a month and most flew much more. Missions went everywhere, always something new to see, aircraft to fly, stopovers in exotic places. Just being aloft was magical, and I never tired of cloud formations, each unique, shaped by fractal geometry, the mathematics of nature.
Every take-off was a transformation, from land-bound to air-free, each landing a return to comfort and my natural habitat. A skill I never mastered, or wanted to, was landing on an aircraft carrier, especially at night. I salute and bow to every Navy pilot, but no thanks.
Flying through weather reminded you that you didn't belong up there. Weather is less a problem these days with advanced technology, but planes still go down.
I liked taking off in the rain under low cloud cover. At the head of the runway, windshield wipers arcing, the far end shrouded in mist, advance the throttles, thunder into the splattering drops, lift off, engulfed in clouds, break out into brilliant sun, an alien world of blue sky over a shimmering white blanket.
Sometimes it was the reverse, take-off under a clear sky, land through cloud cover. These days it's routine, but then the only instruments were a “beam” which sort of told you that you were headed for the runway, and three cockpit compasses, magnetic, gyro, and radio, with somebody in the control tower hopefully watching a tiny blip on primitive radar. Once, flying at 500 feet through misty low-hanging stratus clouds searching for a field near Bangor, Maine, glimpses of forest and farms below, following a radio beacon I wasn't sure was the right one, suddenly to see the field directly below, landing, comparing flights with other freshman pilots, none with more than a few hundred hours in the air, every one of us feeling like lords of space and time.