For an earthbound creature to learn to fly there are certain compromises that must be made. It is not an ethereal stretching of wings and a glorious step into the unknown. It isn’t nature’s forgotten handshake deal with gravity, you don’t remember how to do it. It’s not in our bones or born from necessity, it’s a hard won battle with the laws of physics, finance and fuel consumption. You’ll learn and regurgitate things few others need to know. As below so above lie potential altercations and legal frameworks, lines to cross or abide by, judgements to call and errors to make.

Then consider the stratosphere. It might seem to non-pilots an abstract place, a shapeless realm. Some may consider distant gassy conversations between air and water, to some it comes merely dark and light, or the dictator of garments and general mood, perhaps unwieldy, uncontrollable, sometimes heavy, sometimes playful, often too vast to contemplate. But to those in small planes the sky reveals itself a fickle extension of solid earth, a three dimensional ground with ups, downs and alongs. It has peaks and troughs, immovable obstacles, dynamic currents and dark crevices. And the vapours matter, they can flip everything into nothing in a heartbeat. 

Interminable dramas of weight and balance take over from the romantic meanderings of swoop and soar. Critical angle of attack bumps poetry into the jump seat. Yaw roll and pitch supercede sex and magic. But slowly, as familiarity with the pre-flight, start-up, take-off, mid-flight, landing checks mark out borders of experience, these same razor wire fences of learn by rote unwittingly allow flashes of the wonder beyond. With time, as muscle memory wipes sweat from your eyes and fear sorely subsides, a little bit of birdlife creeps in.