It is crazy to be writing you this letter, life has changed immensely in the past couple months, I am in the Maldives, working through my line indoc flying the DHC-6 Twin Otter an airplane I had always thought was just a dream I had as a kid, but here I am.
When I started this journey in aviation I really was living out a childhood dream. Coming to Langley Flying School at fourteen and learning to fly, I was not just welcomed into a school, I was welcomed into a family. I can say I grew up at the Langley Airport, it is where I spent my weekends, and all of my summers in high school. I remember with much fondness running the front desk, washing airplanes and pumping gallon after gallon of AVGAS into the Cherokees.
My first flight was right after my fourteenth birthday in ODP (pre the fancy paint job) with David Woollam. Just like most people on their fam flight I nervously hoped in the left seat, Dave in the right, and my dad in the back. I watched dauntingly as Dave coxed the old O-320 to life, wondering how I would ever remember what all these little buttons and nobs do. So off bumbling down the taxi way we went, Dave casually describing the checks we do, and how the plane taxis, how one has to use their feet to steer. Dave does the run up, and is talking to the tower in some language I don't understand. Dave had told me earlier that he would have me fly the airplane, but unbeknownst to me that we had somehow launched from the runway to some place over Langley or White Rock and apparently I had been involved somehow in the process. Dave describes how we keep straight and level and make gentle turns. I of course then made very gentle or very extreme changes in the direction or pitch. Dave looks casually over at me, my death-grip strangling any life from the yoke. Dave in his loosely buttoned Hawaiian shirt has me look over at how he is holding the column, just a few fingers gingerly holding the plane, his arm loose. "Mike, you have to just be wiggly worm on the controls, just a few fingers, you can't feel the plane if you are squeezing the control column".
I had many a fun flights with Dave after that, mostly just check rides as I progressed through training, with my instructor Tom Larkin. Tom was (I guess is) my parents age and had just taught his own son Sean to fly so as an instructor and mentor he was a perfect fit. I always remember feeling more like a son and friend then just a student.
A couple years into my flying Dave headed off to the Maldives to fly Twin Otters for at the time Maldivian Air Taxi. I think for a lot of us at the school that was now a goal, a dream, it was something attainable now. Then over the years off went Cullen Worth, Luke Howard and a few others I am sure (You have probably kept a better record of that then me). Still being in high school I got a driver’s license (don't worry had the Recreational pilot permit first), went to grad, applied to university.
It was great being young, I got to see everyone I had gotten to know for four years head off somewhere and work hard, getting jobs, getting the left seat on something exciting.
A couple years into university and a break from flying I dived right back in, I finished my commercial, and went and built time on floats out at Fort Langley Air.
Then with the help of my Langley Flying School family, I found myself with a job instructing at Fort Langley Air.
So university done and two years of instructing on the float plane I started sending out resumes, and now thanks again to my Langley Flying School family my resume ended up down here in the Maldives, on the right person's desk at the right time.
Getting hired down here was out of the blue and really quick, it was wasn't even two weeks from getting the job offer to being on the ground here. It has been a big change to go from University lecture halls and a cosy little Cessna 180 bombing around the mountains; to be 10,000 miles from home, in a city so utterly different to a Langley boy. Flying a twin otter out on the ocean where the highest geographical point is only 8 feet above sea level.
I get to Malé (my first trip out of North America), and in no time at all Luke (who I have only run into a handful of times in the past 5 years) is at the drop of a hat meeting me and showing around town, where to buy groceries, where to get take out, pointing out places I may want to come back and explore on my days off.
So fast forward ten years and six weeks or something from my first flight in old ODP, and there I am again wondering how I will ever remember what all these buttons and switches do, Dave Woollam describing how to steer the Twin Otter on the water using the power levers. Dave does the takeoff here out of Malé, and then "you have control" and off we go to the training lagoon.
Somewhere a couple flights into my Twin Otter training course we land at the training lagoon and we note the time and Dave flies the circuit to mark his 10,000 hour of flying. It is amazing how things work out, stuff you cannot plan, Dave by happenstance is the instructor for my fam flight, then somehow ten years later it works out that I am there to celebrate his 10,000 hour milestone with him.
It is crazy to be a decade into aviation, it has been an amazing journey thus far; I know not the destination of all of this but I know that Langley Flying School will forever be an valued part of who I am, not only did I learn to fly there but I grew up there, was welcomed into a family there, that was not just for a time but is something that keeps supporting me as I make a go at a career in aviation.
I will be back sometime late in summer to do that instrument rating flight test, excited to fly with you again Dave.