After finishing last week’s blog with a reference to my flight instructing days….I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many times, over the years, people have quizzed me about my fascination with aviation. So…I have decided to spend a little time here sharing some of my life as a pilot.
I think my serious interest in airplanes first began in 1954 (age 7) when my family embarked on what became a series of extended travels abroad. This first major trip consisted of flying from Los Angeles to Montreal where we boarded the “ HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH” for a week-long Atlantic voyage to Liverpool. We then spent about one month traveling around Europe via air, rail and autobus before returning to New York on the “HMS QUEEN MARY” and ultimately a couple of flights back to LA.
There was just something about those classic commercial birds from the fifties (ie DC-6’s, DC-7’s, DC-3’s and Lockheed Constellations) that just captured my soul. I loved the machines themselves. I loved the procedures, the atmosphere and the entire process of flying. The stewardesses weren’t bad either!!
From the moment I returned home from that trip I was obsessed with airplanes and began spending hours making as many aircraft models as I could find. Although my enthusiasm for aviation never waned….in the interest of space and time….lets jump ahead to the early 1970’s.
Shortly after assuming my responsibilities with the Los Angeles Philharmonic I was faced with one of my life’s greatest tragedies. My father, at the very young age of 60 years old, suffered a ruptured aneurysm of the heart, causing significant brain damage from the resulting oxygen deprivation. I was devastated and my father ultimately spent the remaining twelve years of his life, institutionalized.
Following this life changing event I spent hours, days, weeks trying to make sense of how such a tragedy could have occurred to such a vital…and young individual. The old adage of “living for the day” quickly became the backbone of my personal philosophy. However, I am grateful that even given my extreme emotional state at the time I was able to pursue my newly adopted philosophy with some element of balance and good sense.
Flying had ALWAYS been something I had wanted to pursue and these tragic events clearly opened my eyes to ”There’s No Time Like the Present!” I conscientiously began my research and before long had selected a highly respected flight instructor based at the Van Nuys Airport. After some emotional negotiating with my mother..and wife… I started down my life’s new path as, “Alan de Veritch, Pilot!”
Although my new field of study was intense, time consuming and intellectually challenging I couldn’t have picked a better distraction from my daily stresses of the time. Quickly addicted I pushed myself to achieve as much as possible in a relatively short period of time. Within about 3 years I had acquired my initial “Private Pilot Certificate”, an “Instrument Rating”, a “Commercial Pilot Certificate”, a “Multi Engine Rating”, a “Ground Instructor Certificate”, and had become a “Certified Flight Instructor”.
Was it ever my intent to trade my career as a musician for that of a professional aviator? No…not really. However, when the motion picture recording industry experienced the longest and most economically painful strike in its history right on the heals of my departure from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I was most grateful for the newly developed skills and knowledge of aviation I had acquired. I cannot tell you how many weeks, during that period of almost one year, I was able to feed my family solely from the income I earned as a charter pilot and flight instructor!!
I am SO grateful for all I have learned over the years from my relationship with flying. This learning goes way beyond technical flight skills. For example:
- Good judgment…….e. balancing level of experience, knowledge and available skill set with the potential demands required of specific situations.
- Functioning calmly and successfully in times of crisis
- Making decisions in ways that consistently reduce potential risk
- Creating scenarios which promote a stress free, controlled environment
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned was the importance of encouraging even the most talented young musicians to broaden their interests and talents beyond the World of Music! One just never knows when one’s survival or that of their families may depend upon it.
Now, add to all this the amazing feeling of personal freedom experienced while flying through the air in any attitude you choose. The thrill of literally playing hide & seek with the clouds and the incredible exhilaration of taking off in zero visibility followed by a landing procedure void of any land visibility until approximately 30 seconds before touchdown!!!! Pretty hard to beat!!!
Well, now that I’ve hopefully wet your appetite, I’m thinking that next week I will share some of the more unusual (and amusing) tales of my life with airplanes.
See u then!