Title True Course – Lessons From a Life Aloft
Author Brigid Johnson
Genre Memoir/Young Adult
Publisher Outskirts Press
From award-winning, Amazon #1 best-selling author Brigid Johnson comes the tale of how one woman's life in the sky forged an unforgettable destiny. Growing up in a small factory town in the 1960's when aviation was predominantly a male profession, with parents who didn't support her ambitions, Brigid nevertheless learned to fly as a teenager. Hers was a busy life of setting limits and learning philosophies of growth and risk well beyond her years, even as she juggled two jobs, college, and a rescue Siberian husky whose wandering spirit put her own to shame. From first solo to an airline career, and finally a decision to hang up her wings for another profession when her elderly father needed her care, Brigid captures with understanding, humor, and grace the moments that change the path of our lives as we come of age. With lyrical expression of her love for flight, she writes old and new stories of family, adventure, and the thrill of taking to the sky. True Course is more than a memoir or a story of the lure of aviation-it's a story of learning to let the spirit soar and unfurling the wings of personal freedom, an inspiration to adventurers everywhere.
The crew room. Almost every airport has one, where the pilots hang out while waiting for their next flight. At small airports served by corporate and private aircraft, it's usually a room with some recliners to get a nap and some magazines. At an airline terminal, there's one for each airline, often no more than a small area with chairs.
Sometimes you might have only thirty minutes between flights, just time enough to grab a sandwich to eat later and take care of your preflight duties. Other times you would be there so long you'd go for a walk in the terminal. The sights and sounds of the terminal were like a familiar hum and it just felt good to stretch one's legs for a while.
I remember one day going into the crew room and the place was packed. I think half of the ops employees who weren't working a flight were in there gathered around the TV which had on one of those afternoon “talk” shows which usually involved people getting into a shoving match over a surprise paternity test. “Why are you watching this?” I asked, looking at the show’s narrative; “women that sleep with their best friend's husband.” One of the baggage handlers looked at me and pointed at the screen and said, “It's Sue in Human Resources!”
I decided to go for a walk.
Sometimes you had to stick around while they were performing maintenance on your plane for something you brought to the mechanic’s attention. I remember one such time where one of the maintenance technicians on duty that day was well known for friendly but hilarious practical jokes. She was also really afraid of mice and other such creatures that might take refuge in a hanger in the winter. We started things out when we brought her out to the aircraft with a verbal notification about a possible write up for a “nest of rats” we found in the bay near the hydraulic pump. It helped even less when we bought one of those wind up balls with the long furry tail from the airport gift shop (you know what I'm talking about) and as she came on board, I turned it on and flung it down in the darkened aisle and yelled to my copilot, “Bill, I got one of them” and grabbed the rotating furball, both of us then shoving it in a sack and wrestling it to the floor. I never saw anyone evacuate an airplane that fast but two minutes later, she stuck her head back in the door, laughing her head off, knowing we had one upped her on the practical jokes.
But there were also times where not much was happening but the wait of three hours until your next flight. There was nothing on TV, and there was nothing to which you felt like laughing about near the end of a twelve-hour day. On such times you might sit down with a pilot you'd never flown with, and with nothing really else to do you would strike up a conversation. Now I'm perfectly happy being by myself for days on end. But it's always interesting when you met someone new, who shared your work and your love for your profession. Sometimes you would end up chatting for a couple of hours, like school kids, taking an occasional glance at the sky—one so crystal clear it was as if the descending sun was nothing more than a golden ball that would shatter the horizon like glass.
Such moments when you are gathered with those you both like and respect were good, the room rumbling sounds of lively conversation as we laughed as a family does about our week. Then there's sometimes just silly banter of shared experiences, things that would mean nothing to non-airmen. Sometimes we would share things of a deeply personal nature, for support, for prayer, the words almost a vibration in the air as if a violin string were gently plucked. Then two minutes later the room was erupting with laughter again as coffee was poured and new faces replaced the old.
In time the room settled into quiet, as the moon glow seeped like liquid into the stars, and the forms of sleeping aircraft outside seemed to withdraw into the night. It was only when you realized it is time to catch your red-eye deadhead flight home that you left the room, the sky full of one bright reddish star as if it were one lone expelled spark of the night's fireworks display.
Such moments, whether with old friends or new, enrich us in the same way. As humans who have lived life fully, sometimes foolishly, sometimes isolated by our own accord, we have all had our hearts broken at one time, sometimes more than once. In that brokenness, so many things can enter our hearts—fear, shame, betrayal, anger, hope, faith. But when gathered around with friends there is only acceptance of those bits of those elements of light and dark that find a home in a human heart. That is a blessing in our little community of airmen, one I know I will miss someday.
A former commercial pilot, Mrs. Johnson grew up out West where she later received a doctorate in Criminal Justice in order to pursue a career in that field after hanging up her wings. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and rescue dogs.
She is a two-time winner (Silver, Gold) of the Reader's Favorite International Book Award.
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