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Some of the the most unpleasant words in any language tend to be small with barely a grouping of 3-4 letters. Harshest of all is a word that needs no introduction or translation. The mere pronunciation of the word indicates its dismissive and decisive stance. Vocal stresses are transmitted to be perceived as a physical thump to the listening mind.
Quick to its resolve, with no love lost to what it denies. It has no reason and is as cold as empty space. It shuts the door with no option of return. To so many people this tiny word holds a mortal fear. A fear debilitating them into a stale life of acceptance. Even the strongest among us loathe the chance encounter, evading this word at any cost.
Know Thy Enemy...
In my younger years it was the cause of everything wrong in my life. Unfair with its ability to decide with no discussion. Irrational to my adolescent mind, and yet, it was my go to response to anything I didn't like. As my wants developed with age, so did the many creative ways this word would manifest itself.
It grows stronger with a dismissive laugh, add a stare and it becomes terrifying. In my opinion, women are the masters of this word, where they can say it with the lightest breath, yet inflict devastating blows. Avoiding the word only debilitates its holder, opening the door for others to suck whatever worth one has.
Throughout the ages this necessary evil hovered over humanity's collective knowledge as a limit of expression. Some cultures took extreme measures in recognition of the stress caused by this conceptual word, and structured their entire language to avoid it. Even in our daily lives, in recognition of its effects, we tend to pad it with words of endearment in an attempt to lessen the burden of guilt. I would even argue that it is the only conceptual expression understood and intelligible between some humans and animals.
As is the case with all of us, no life journey is complete without its restrictions and rejections, simplified by uttering the word NO! My journey towards earning my wings was no acceptation. A journey that taught me the benefits of No.
Know Thy Self...
Its was the end of the 80s, with Airwolf on TV and Top Gun on "Rewind". Tacky hair sprayed theme songs, you could smell when heard, yet still great for every flyby I imagined my toy planes would do. HIGHWAY TO THE DANGER ZONE!!
Back then I was always with my cousin. As partners in crime we were both hardcore Top Gun Freaks. Gel Hair, bomber jackets, we even raided his older brothers rooms for their Aviator Glasses. I'm sure we annoyed the entire family with our "MACH ONE!" call outs every time we ran down the hall.
It must have been when I was around 8 or 9 when I caught the aviation bug. This was an enabling time, with PCs becoming a serious entertainment machine. No internet yet, but a myriad of games were being produced on a monthly basis. Release after release of hard hitting games, and Flight Sims were the rage. F-117 Nighthawk, LHX attack helicopter, Birds of Pray, Chuck Yager Aviation, Fleet Defender, the list goes on and I had them all.
Earlier that year for my birthday, my father bought me one of those DIY Models of an F-16C. On my first attempt, I managed to fix the whole body along with some attachments using only stick glue. It was a sticky messy toy to play with, and fell apart anytime anyone touched it. To "FIX " the problem I later used Super Glue to stick the parts together, but that only burnt the plastic and made the hole thing even worse. Basically, it was a complete FAIL.
Putting that aircraft together, to me was the best thing ever. It built this passion inside me towards the form of aircraft, an admiration to the shaped metal bodies, and their function. The up close detail of every part with molded rivets and machined creases, gave me insight to the stresses these machines endure.
Engine assembly uncovered this fascinating and complex piece of engineering that I had absolutely no clue about, but it looked serious. A series of blade fans connected to a shaft that leads to nothing but an exhaust. The cigar shaped capsule was packed dense, giving it a relatively heavier weight to the rest of the modeled body. Fixing the wings, and attaching payload, transported my imagination to a function of missiles detaching to chase targets while trailing in its smoke. This was my first passion, and I loved the rush.
Later with my cousin we developed a fairly decent collection of planes, between us we must have had at least 50 aircraft modeled. At one point he even assembled a scaled Carrier ship, and this was all before our teens. We both had our "creations" on display adorning our rooms, and itched at the chance of telling people about them.
The real game changer was the movie Top Gun. It took a while for it to reach us, but that film was the cause of every Mad Pilot moment I every had. My Cousin and I first heard of it from his brothers about a year after its release. Once we got word that the movie was on the Island, we rushed every video store to find one that would rent or sell us a copy of an R rated film. "Thank you Rose Video".
That movie was incredible! we must have watched it 3-4 time the first day we got it. Fast planes, bikes, and the sound FX were AMAZING!! The visuals filled in the blanks that our PC games lacked, cockpit detail, speedy flybys, G-force stresses, that F-14 with its double engine after burner, Augh Augh Augh!
Obsessed I would wake and sleep with the thought of flight, I would mimic (Still Do) sound FX everywhere I went, and people would notice, and it wouldn't bother me one bit. I was on a personal high that grew grander with every second spent in it.
At that point, my life needs were Sustenance to keep me going, Air to breath and the Fantasy of flight to help my heart pumping! My skinny frame was evident to my disregarded appetite. My breath I learned to control while sustaining engine sound FXs, but the images in my obsessive mind were with me even in sleep. My want became a need, and something had to be done.
My first and biggest hurdle was convincing my parents of my intent to fly; a fighter jet no less... Don't get me wrong, both my parents were and continue to be very supportive, they have seen me through all kinds of asinine whims. From the usual dreams of being a footballer, to buying me parachute pants to dance "can't touch this" like MC Hammer...
Revved up and charged with excitement, I remember spending the whole day contemplating how I'm to explain what I want and why. Flying wasn't just a passion, I saw it honorable to be one of the few, and a selfless scarifies to my fellow and country. That first No, came swift, and with such disregard, it caught me with no response. Will Shattered, Dreams Wrecked...
A Thousand Battles...
I walked into my parent’s room, straight and center, in front of the TV to my father's full attention. I spoke my rehearsed words, and ended with a smile as if waiting to receive a star. I should have known by the look on both their faces, that this wasn’t going to end well. My mother was observant but confused, and my father still wanting me out of the way.
High on passion I can still feel my eyes swelling, frog in my throat and butterflies in my stomach. My legs were melting, my voice was all over the place and I started to sweat profusely.
My mother drew first blood. She looked at me with a shocked face and ranted about the value of my life, and time spent raising me gone to waste. Basically a motherly high pitch "انت جنيت" "have you gone insane" moment! Pan Right, I look to my father, and his laugh said it all. Will Shattered, Dreams Wrecked… I was denied what I wanted, yet I kept a corner of hope inside. Thinking back with reason, what mother would encourage such an idea? And I was blocking the TV!!!
Towards the end of high school, a friend came to tell me that he wanted to join the army after graduating and build his life there. His thoughts of going to college and getting a bank job were "too much of a drag to consider maaan". Out of curiosity I decided to join along, at least I could get some information.
College applications were just as cumbersome, and the chase to fly was still on. So we headed to a makeshift recruitment office. My friend gets his details taken down, and I was told to move towards another area.
Picture a heavy set man in his 40s, brownish sunburn built up from years of exposure, well-kept hair but horrible teeth. He explained that pilots require a more detailed physical test. If accepted, I was looking at 4 years of training, before I even get to see an aircraft. Fine with me!
Then with delusional confidence, I “Demanded” to be a Fighter Pilot? I still remember those crooked teeth and his over dramatized laugh.
" لا لا لا حبيبي انت حدك هلبكبتر “
No buddy, you'll be luck to get a halicabtar”
"اش طولك انت ما يمشونك طيار"
"You're too tall, you wont pass for a pilot”
He explained with invite to the other recruiters around him, they all had that look of rejection on their face padded with a smile. The realized disappointment was too harsh, I just turned and walked away. I didn't even apply.
My friend was the first to laugh, taunting me the whole way back, “Dreams are Only Good in Sleep” he said. At that moment I saw how people easily give up, but to be rejected because ignorance or a physical trait was hurtful.
A few years later while in college, my "MACH ONE" cousin took to the sky. He found a bit of space in his life and decided to get some lessons under his belt. I've never been up with him, but he'd tell me all about the great experiences he had, and how free it made him feel. He'd ask me to join, but I thought to myself, here's another flight romantic, trying to sell me on an unattainable dream.
At that time, being in a large city, airfields rented aircraft were not too accessible. On weekends and with low traffic, the nearest flight school was a good 40-minute ride. When I weighed in the demands of flight school I had a solid negative reasoning towards the idea.
My cousin would often miss the class or cancel his flight for simple life demands. Once September comes in, the weather would become unbearable to fly trainers in. It was a pause until spring, add rainy days and bad weather and that's 9 months lost out of the year. I saw him lose the push, he let go with disappointment. By this time the trend was all so familiar to me.
I wasn’t discouraged by the distance, neither was the time demanded an issue for me. In all honesty, I would have gladly dropped campus life for a runway! Just like in most situations, it was a fun idea until it got serious. Faced with a two-year program and a substantial cost to cover, this wasn't and easy walk. Time, Effort, Dedication are not something a college student understands, specially not my freshmen self.
At this point flying was a dream fading to black, if not for my excitement when riding commercial planes, I would have probably let go of my dream to long before. But R. Kelly said it best “I Believe I Can Fly”. I reverted to my Flight Sims, and kept my eyes to the sky. I left College wingless, but naively hopeful.
Years pass, and I'm back home on the Island. As part of an Airshow, a friend of a friend was in Bahrain promoting a flight school. This was the first time in ages that I found someone with insight and interest in flight. The conversations were quick in becoming a why not situation. The rush was cautiously coming back, but I was crushed with doubt.
The odd thing this time was, I gave up before even trying. Emotionally I was too drained to go through this again. So much, that when I mentioned it to my family I was actually looking for an excuse to say No. I convinced myself to let go and excused my intent.
That self denial ate at me for years, I was aware of it, and it bothered me. On top of defeat, I felt crushed, my logic towards this dream was set to failure. I had too many rejections in the face of hope, but thankfully not enough to turn me back.
A Thousand Victories, A Thousand Defeats...
We as humans, are not meant to fly. Taking to the sky is a privilege that is earned, and not a right to be given. There are rules to follow, a discipline to respect, and a world of knowledge to absorb. The journey I had to attaining my license was an experience built on rejections.
It was these rejections that taught me the difference between want and need. No was right. No gave me the inner power to work through those nights reading up on Part 61, 91. It gave me a worthy adversary to compete with, and for the best part, it humbled me to accept. I came to realize, that No is a very misunderstood concept. It is used to deny with no explanation, but the real meaning is that "you're just not ready".
After earning my wings, I’ve flown countless hours in numerous skies. Mangroves in Ras AlKhaimah [Respect! Capt. Afaak], a no power glider flight with friend up in Texas [Thank you J. Luc], Paragliding down the Nepalese mountains [Thank you Primosh]. In every situation, No was there, limiting and prohibiting, forcing its will.
I still face No in my life. Inherently, No manifest itself in many forms but recognize it for its true intent and you'll make a friend of No. It can shows up as a closed airspace, or as innocent as a heavy cloud, No is always there and will always watch over.