22 August, 2013

Profile 80 - IN-PROGRESS: "837" as flown by Dick Rutan, MISTY 40, 612 TFS

I'll never forget the start of The Iraq War—March 20, 2003.

Not because the moment engendered any kind of patriotism or political rash but because of the reaction I got from others.  See, I was preparing to go to Europe with a few WW2 vets and the media was rife with stories of anti-American this and that.

I can remember distinctly one person, a family friend, being astonished that I didn't cancel my trip outright.  "You're taking a big risk!" she warned in a hiss as if to thwart the piqued ears of foreign spies.

And then there were...maybe, ten, fifteen more people who offered similar advice.  I remember another, "Well, if it was me, I'd sure think twice about going!"

Normally, I'm not the brightest bulb in the room.  So, I've developed the good habit of seeking advice when it comes to matters of question.   And the advice I seek is usually from those whom are counter to the first proposition.  In this case, I asked a man who was quite familiar with war, Europe and 'risk.'

I asked Punchy Powell, one of the WW2 fighter pilots I was intending to accompany.  "Punchy?"

"Yeah?" he replied in his collard-green drawl.

"This war in Iraq.  How you feel about that in light of our trip.  I mean, are you..."

"Wur-ud?" He interjected quickly.


"We go!  I learned a long time ago that if I was afraid of the little things, I'd be afraid of everything!"

In a flash, the well-intentioned but fretful faces of all those folk flashed before my eyes—teachers, weight lifters, managers, doctors—and I realized. These people were afraid.  And it wasn't so much the fear of something real, it was the fear of something possible.    And it struck me—they didn't seem to have the internal confidence that Punchy had.  They hadn't learned to control the fear of little things that was necessary to see the big things as—not fear—adventure.

Bottom line, I went and had a BLAST.  New friends, awesome sights, amazing history...and I was even cursed by a Parisian grocery store clerk (evidently, my American-ism was rather obvious).  To think that I would have lost all of what I gained on account of prudent possibilities makes me shudder.

I learned:  "Adventure" is not so much an act as it is an attitude.

Ok.  So what does this have to do with Dick Rutan's F-100F?    In the event you don't know the name, you may remember that strange, spindly white airplane that flew around the world back in December of 1986.  That airplane was called The Rutan Voyager and he and fellow pilot Jeana Yeager flew it around the world, NON STOP.

It took nine days, entirely in the air, in a cockpit smaller than a farmyard propane tank!

Nine days of eating, breathing, pooping without touching earth—much of it over water—pretty much qualifies as an "Adventure."  And I wonder how many people thought the act was madness.  "Dick, really now.  Isn't just a little foolish to get into that thing and..."

In a few weeks, I get to sit down with Dick and learn what it takes to live a life of obvious risk, boundary pushing and accomplishment.  Of course, I'll share what comes of that with you, too.

But, I suspect that such a life begins in-spite of all the admonishment with the words, "We go!"

Stand by...