May 8, 2019
By Ross Victory, Author of new release Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son available on major online retailers in time for Father's Day.
Several people have asked me what inspired my book title. It is layered with personal memories of airplane watching and my own journey through loss, but ultimately Views from the Cockpit is a metaphor, a mental framing device that evokes a sense of perspective. We hear idioms all the time. “Life is like a movie” or “life is like a box of chocolates,” to name a few. But this metaphor has a large invisible bright red arrow pointed back at you--and me--any person who dares to question what they see and what they are experiencing in this life.
When I think of a flight, I think of a journey from one point to the next point – just like our lives. The journey—the actual process of staying airborne—is just as significant as the departure and arrival at the final destination. That is, our lives are a summation of experiences—all fundamental to how we experience the world at every step. Everything matters. Everything informs what happens next. Your reaction and inner reality is exclusively yours. It is, in fact, the only permanence of your existence. A quick example. Do you remember Captain Sully who saved a cabin full of people by landing on the Hudson River in New York? He saw a deadly flock of birds that blew out the engines. Hundreds of lives were jeopardized from what he saw from his view, but somehow he saved them (and himself).
When I was contemplating the title for my book, I interviewed a pilot to better understand the experience of flying an airplane. And to flush out the comparisons I wanted to make between flight and life.
I met Oliver Schulz through a good friend from Germany. Oliver flies a 747-8 for Lufthansa between L.A. and Berlin. Oliver described to me the actual view from a cockpit. “It’s like a movie,” he said, “Spectacular. Everything is floating under you. I am impressed every time I fly. The Milky Way…planets…cities appearing as glowing stripes…and vast, majestic oceans and forests...”
From a darker perspective, there is inclement weather. There is turbulence. There can be hydraulic failure. Terrorist threats. Deadly crashes can result from a flock of unconcerned birds as was the case in Captain Sully's case. Let’s call these "unconcerned birds" trauma. Trauma in our lives that alters our course and can take us off the map completely if we're not able to respond from our place of truth.
I could go on forever about the parallels between flight and our lives. I am particularly interested in how horrible airplane food and no leg room might translate metaphorically! Jokes aside, I wanted to zero in on the single most important aspect of flight during my conversation with Oliver.
Oliver explained that every flight route requires a specific amount of fuel. Too much fuel, no flight. Too little, no flight. As simple as that is, it illuminates an interesting point. It makes me think about sources of fuel. If we need fuel, where do we even get it?
Is fuel hope? Is fuel rest? Is fuel curiosity? Is fuel faith? Is fuel relationships? Is fuel the sacrifice and martyrdom of past generations? Does the origin of our fuel vary? Maybe you know someone who is short on fuel. Maybe you know someone who has fuel but can't seem to stay airborne for very long--maybe this person is you. There's only so much we can do for others without putting our own situations at risk. One pilot per plane.
Oliver added that no flight, even to the same destination, can ever be the same. “There are so many decisions that have to be made in a flight…” Circumstances are never duplicated. Every flight is unique—the weather, the crew, the fuel, the air traffic, nothing is the same. Every flight must be approached as a new situation.
So I guess all of this is to say that maintaining perspective can be useful. That is, perspective of where you are and where you want to be. Not perspective of others on different routes. Your route is uniquely yours. I wanted to evoke that idea through the title. “Views from the Cockpit,” while a personal memory for, is simply a symbol of perspective. It embodies the value of all of our journeys while at the same time referencing to our individuality.
We—I— routinely judge others based on their faults and successes. We pity those who appear behind and celebrate those who have “made it.” If no flight can ever be the same then judgments have no basis in reality. One day you nosedive, the next you soar. Clear skies can change to violent windstorms in a second. We must focus on our trajectories. We must trust in our wings—that we were built to fly and to take on anything that crosses our path.
So, I ask you…What is the view from the cockpit of your life? What do you see?