I had just parked my truck in the employee parking lot at the airport and had begun walking toward the terminal when I saw a young man, perhaps 24 or so, who looked like he was uncertain about something as he approached me. He was wearing a uniform of some type, possibly an airport service one. He walked hesitatingly toward me, then, deflated, he abruptly turned around. He took a few steps toward the rear, then turned again to catch up to me.
I was wearing my pilot uniform and wheeling my bags behind me, so he knew I was heading out to fly. I suppose he finally got his courage up because, after clearing his throat a couple of times, he very politely asked me if I had time to answer a couple of questions. He was going my anyway so I said sure. We walked together to the bus stop, and then we rode all the way to the terminal with him talking a mile a minute. It was obvious the young man was captivated by aviation. He most assuredly had the “disease.”
I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I came across a young person who possessed the same ardency for flying that I had when I was his age. I had long ago started to believe that they no longer existed.
I won’t belabor the point here, but he was worried about his past – his police record. It seems he had gotten into trouble with drugs as a teenager, and was uncertain as to whether that criminal activity would kill his chances for success in aviation. He is now enrolled in a community college for aviation, and he has plans to transfer to a four-year school to earn a degree in the same subject.
I hope I steered him correctly, but I told him that we all make mistakes, and that as long as he keeps out of trouble from now onward he should have no trouble finding employment in the airline business in the future; I tried to encourage him the best I could in that regard. I personally know quite a few guys who have taken several long strides down that road in the past, and they are senior captains today.
Anyway, the young man and I will do some flying now and then, because 1: I am still a CFII, and 2: I need to fly single-engine airplanes every couple of months or so in order to maintain currency. So, I might as well put him the left seat and let him gain all he can.
It feels good to be a mentor. I have never been one before – at least in aviation. If anyone out there reading this has any words of advice I could give to the young man I would sure like to hear them. Seeing his passion for flying kind of rekindles my own. But I’m afraid I don’t have much fuel left in the tank; retirement is only a few short years away. It’s been a good career; I’ll miss it when it’s over.