AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 22

PROFICIENT PILOT

And just like that...

BY BARRY SCHIFF

Old but no longer bold
WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER my mother kept telling me
to stop wishing my life away.
I began hearing this admonishment a year after
my first flight. It was in a Douglas DC-4 that whisked
me from coast to coast to spend the summer of 1951
with my paternal grandparents in New Jersey. I was
so enthralled by the experience of flying that after
returning home I began pedaling my bike to nearby
Santa Monica Airport. It was there that I became seriously infected by the flying bug. I took my first lesson
the following year when 14 and then began counting
the days until when I could finally solo.
On my sixteenth birthday, the day I soloed, I joined
AOPA (soloing was a membership requirement in
those days). That first solo was unquestionably the
most liberating experience of my life, an epiphany.

I honestly thought that it would take a
lot longer to get here and, in many ways,
I still feel like that kid who wished away
all those days and years.

BARRY SCHIFF

began flying 69
years ago in 1952 at
the age of 14.

22 | AOPA PILOT April 2021

The days continued passing slowly, and I had to wait
for what seemed like forever to reach my seventeenth
birthday to become a private pilot...and then 18 to
become a commercial pilot and flight instructor.
But even then, I was " still not old enough. " The
Civil Aeronautics Administration (FAA's predecessor)
would not allow pilots to obtain an airline transport
rating-the ATR, which is now the ATP-until reaching age 23. Painfully, I began counting those 1,826 days.
No wonder Mom said that I was wishing my life away.
Through dogged persistence, I convinced the CAA to
let me take the ATR flight test two years early-when
I was 21-the first person allowed to do so.
TWA hired me in 1964 at age 26. One of our newhire classes involved planning for what would be our
mandatory retirement at age 60. Why did I have to
worry about such things? I would never get that old.
When I began flying the line as a Constellation copilot, I was amazed at how ancient some of the captains looked and wondered how sharp they could
be. It did not take long to discover that most were

outstanding airmen, fully capable of flying safely until
60 and beyond (as increasing the mandatory retirement age to 65 has proven). There were a few younger
pilots, however, who did not belong in a cockpit and
should have been put to pasture well before 60.
Before I knew it, I had flown for TWA for 34 years.
I had suddenly become one of those ancients and was
staring at the end of my career. Instead of counting
days and wishing for them to pass, I now wished for
the aging process to slow down a bit. Mom was right.
I had wished my life away.
It was a serious disappointment to be forced
off the flight deck at what I considered to be such a
young age. I was having too much fun and still considered myself to be a skillful airline pilot. Thankfully,
general aviation had no such age limits, and I could
continue flying. As a retirement present, I bought
myself a brand-new American Champion 7GCBC,
the first Citabria ever equipped and certified for IFR
flight. What a thrill to take N707BS into LAX a few
months later and shoot an ILS in actual conditions
of 200 and ½.
I will soon be 83, a number that seems to get
caught in my throat. I honestly thought that it would
take a lot longer to get here and, in many ways, I still
feel like that kid who wished away all those days and
years. I still feel good even though I recently had to
have the shock absorber (knee) on my left main landing gear replaced. It was not fun, and I am hoping that
few, if any other, moving parts will have to be replaced
or repaired as I approach TBO.
No longer at the peak of my career, I have discovered that experience, judgment, and wisdom go a
long way in compensating for the loss of youth. I have
learned that a skillful pilot can perform many maneuvers, but a wise one knows when not to.
I no longer will fly a Beech Bonanza through a cold
front at night over the Sierra, and my flight plans have
become far less exciting and more relaxed. I am in less
of a hurry to get anywhere, and I am far more inclined
to cancel a flight when conditions are not to my liking. In fact, some of my most successful flights are the
ones I opt not to make. I believe that in many ways,
older pilots can be as safe or safer than younger ones.
Mom would be pleased. I am no longer counting
the days and wishing my life away.
AOPA
barryschiff.com


http://www.barryschiff.com

AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 8
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 11
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - 20
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - April 2021 - Cover4
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