When it comes to vocations and avocations, I know of none more aesthetically pleasing than flying and diving. I’m sure there are many others, but I simply don’t know them.
My vocation is diving, and flying is my avocation. I also know commercial pilots who dive in caves simply for the joy of diving. Those two activities, flying and diving, are fairly similar, as I’ve noted before.
There are experiences in flying and diving that make them more than enjoyable. They are actually breathtaking, when one takes the time to appreciate them.
For me, the breath taking part is flying into and out of clouds; what is called instrument flying. It’s called that because when you’re in clouds you can’t see the horizon, and you can’t trust bodily sensations, so you are entirely dependent upon your aircraft instruments to make sure you, your passengers, and the aircraft, do not come to harm.
Granted, there are times during an instrument flight when you see absolutely nothing outside the aircraft. Some have compared it to flying inside a milk bottle, which is in my opinion an apt analogy. If it happens to be smooth flight, then there is no sensation of flight at all. The electronic equipment counts down the miles, but as far as you can tell you are in aerial limbo, seemingly suspended in time and space, encroaching on the edges of the twilight zone.
But when you eventually break out of those clouds, you instantaneously switch from sensory deprivation to sensory overload. The view can be spectacular.
When I was an instrument student, long before GPS navigation, instrument flying was hard work, especially when training. It still is in many ways, but technology has made flight in the clouds more precise, and frankly easier over all than it used to be.
But in the clouds a pilot is still too busy “aviating, navigating, and communicating”, to catch more than a brief glance outside, to enjoy the ever shifting textures of white clouds, blue sky and a multitude of grays in between. Occasionally you spy greens and browns of the ground, seen fleetingly through breaks in the cloud cover.
It is a grand theater in the sky not visible from the ground. For that reason, it is special, and to be seen in that moment and that place by no one else in the world except you and your passengers.
The video below gives a sample of such variable flows of scenery, with visibility ranging from zero to miles. The entire flight looped around my home airport in Panama City, FL, as I was radar vectored along a large rectangle, eventually joining a course bringing the aircraft back to a straight-in approach for landing.
This particular flight was a currentcy flight, so the departure and approach to landing was repeated several times. The video, however, ends just after I set up the navigation devices for the next approach. (I suggest you watch the video full screen at the highest resolution possible – 1440p HD.)
The only way I can hope to describe the beauty of such a flight is through the music which accompanies it. The quietness, the excitement, is all there. And from one who has experienced all those emotions during the flight, I can attest to the relevance of that music.