Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Dream catchers

Helping others to reach the skies

By golly, it is true! Into each life some joy does fall, and it happened to me recently.

I was riding the airlines, and two young fellows seated behind me were discussing the finer points of jet operations. One was obviously flying jets, the other hoped to someday. After the flight, I asked the experienced fellow, "Who do you fly for?"

His answer floored me. "NetJets," he said, "and I do believe you are Ralph Hood."

I immediately went on the defensive. "Whatever you heard about me," I said, "is not true. I deny everything." He answered, "No, I heard you say it yourself, at an AOPA meeting in Palm Springs, California, and it was very helpful to me." Folks, you could have knocked me over with a feather. His name is Capt. Michael Flint. He had attended one of my workshops for CFIs when he was a new instructor. He had listened, he had used the methods that I preached, and they had worked for him. That workshop was in 1998. Since then, he had moved all the way up to an airline job, got laid off in the post-September 11 economy, and was now flying business jets for the fractional-share operator. Not bad for a young fellow, and here he was giving me part of the credit. He even had my video, and he swore that he used it.

Ahh, he made my day. I wish I could take as much credit as he gave me, but of course I can't.

The title of that workshop in 1998 was "Making Dreams Come True - Attracting and Keeping Student Pilots." I have gone back over the notes, and I must say that I cannot find one truly original thought in the entire workshop. Most of it I learned myself from Piper Aircraft's Blue Sky Program of the 1970s. It worked then, still works today, and may work forever.

Basically, that workshop and the video I did for AOPA, Successful Strategies to Land and Retain New Students, are based on the simple premise that flying is one of life's most exciting adventures, and we should help students to appreciate and share that excitement.

Everybody in business wants to sell a dream. Most businesspeople have to think up a dream to go with their product. Our product, personal flying, is a dream in and of itself. Most people in our country have at one time or another dreamed of flying an aircraft, all by themselves. You, the CFI, can make that dream come true.

Most of us dreamed of many things in our lives. We dreamed of curing cancer; going to the moon; becoming president of the United States; becoming a great singer or movie star with all of the trappings thereof. But we have long since given up on those dreams. We no longer expect to fulfill them.

But one dream - flying an airplane all by oneself - can still come true. I will never be president, and Hollywood has never called. I now know with absolute certainty that I will never hit a home run in the World Series. It just isn't going to happen.

But I can fly an airplane. That dream came true. Not only that, but you can make it come true for hundreds of people. You can give them something that nobody else can provide - you can help them realize a dream. That's what you're doing.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.

By Ralph Hood

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