May 2008

“For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skywards; for there you have been and there you will long to return…” Leonardo da Vinci

As a child I would often sit and gaze at the sky, watching and pondering with great curiosity the mysteries of the sky above me. I would watch the planes and helicopters in the sky, see the contrails of the jets thousands of feet above me and dream of what it would be like to be inside of one of them. I saw shapes and wonders in the clouds above and around me and marveled at the great wonders that created the heavens above. At twelve I was at a point in my life where the sky was the only safe haven for me, and my thoughts were there always. I used to daydream about the clouds and the planes and the wonderful world above my head. Back then, daydreaming during the day was considered to indicate a problem with the mind and those around me decided to drug me to “correct” my condition. Thankfully, it didn’t work and I would spend the rest of my life remembering the solace those dreams provided.

Once I was old enough, I left for the Marine Corps as as soon as I could I started to learn to fly. I was terrified of flying it turns out, or more correctly terrified of heights. But nothing would stand in my way of what I considered would be the greatest achievement of my life – my pilot’s license. Anyone that knows me knows that I attack everything with a single minded passion. No second thoughts, no going back, no delay. Attack and advance an never retreat. I took the same attitude with my flying. I worked on the private, instrument, commercial and Flight instructor ratings and licenses like a man on a mission.

But as much as I enjoyed the art of flying and the art of teaching (yes, I feel teaching is actually an art) I realized that I enjoyed exposing others to flying as much as I liked the flying itself. Most of my friends know that I am very passionate about the things that I believe in doing. Most of my friend’s wifes will tell you the same thing as I generally try and involve my friends as much as possible. As I continued to fly, I remembered my days as a young boy and how the dreams of flight often consumed my waking moments and often my nights. While at the time it was a way for me to cope with things going on around me, it became a physical passion as well. I think I was around 13 or 14 when I took my first ever airplane ride in Canada. It was a small float plane from a small lake, and I was terrified but I was so excited that I think I had died and gone to heaven. Here I was, a young kid, actually flying in the cockpit of a plane, the world was now below me instead of above me!

As time progresses and my flying progressed, I started to look for ways to share my flying with others. I cannot tell you how many of my friends have been flying with me, but its a safe bet that it is almost all of them. I also cannot even begin to explain how much flying has affected my life. As a young 19 year old pilot and flight instructor I had the opportunity to work out of Oceanside Airport as an instructor. In that process, I began to meet people that would remain my friends years into the future. My flight instructor, Ed Fernett and his family are still very close friends of mine today. Another friend I met because they traveled to the US from Hong Kong so the father, Paul, could get his license. I met his son, Nick when he was 13 or 14 and I still get to fly with him all these years later when he comes to the US to visit. To me, aviation is not a hobby, it is a way of life. Everyone with whom I have contact I try to expose to the wonders of flying.

The other thing that aviation does for me is expands my boundaries. I have people that I care about all over the place and frankly, flying gives me the opportunity to go see them more often than I would have otherwise. I never think about driving until I have ruled out flying! I am one of the luckiest guys around, I am living my dream each time I get into the cockpit of the plane or helicopter to go flying.

A little later in life, I decided that I wanted to be more involved with mentoring and working with boys. Growing up, the Big Brothers program provided me with much needed positive male influence on my life, since all other male influence until that time had been less than positive. I learned about trust, commitment, friendship, integrity, honor and generosity from someone not even related to me…a stranger who choose to give of himself through the Big Brother program so that I would have the chance to have positive relationship with a good male role model. I grew up and joined the Big Brothers program of San Diego so that I could so the same in return. I also volunteer with the Boy Scouts as an Aviation Merit Badge Counselor (go figure). I volunteer for the EAA Young Eagles program where I provide flights for young people aged 8 to 18. And I also volunteer for Angel Flight, providing much needed air transportation for critical ill patients unable to travel any other way.

To me, life is about giving and this is most evident I think in my passion for flying. I have flown with hundreds of kids and friends over the years, and many of those kids still go flying with me today, only they are no longer kids, they are young adults building a life and family of their own. The great thing is that they remember the first or second time they ever flew with me. Another great aspect is that there are many of my friends and their kids that think nothing of going flying with me because they have done it so many times. They still enjoy it, but it has become a common occurrence for them, almost as common as the sight of my helicopter over my neighborhood!

My dreams fueled my passion for flying and now that I have the means to do so, I try to engage as many people as possible in that passion. I currently have multiple friends in some stage of getting their pilot’s license as a result of my friendship with them. Two of them are even husband and wife! In my mind, being a kid is about never having to worry about things in life. The worst thing a kid should have to worry about is his or her grades and maybe if its their turn to take out the trash. In my mind, kids should not have a care in the world. In addition, I think that childhood should be fun and exciting and filled with wonder. I do not have children, but I do have God children and most of them have been flying with me since they were very young. Any of my friends or neighbors that have kids have all gotten invitations from me to go flying. In fact, many of those kids have had their friends show up to go flying with us as well. Several times we have had birthday parties where the kids got to go flying as part of the party.

My goal is simple – to make memories for young people that will last their lifetime and in doing so, hopefully encourage them to do something for a young person someday that will give that person memories that will last a lifetime. Life is about people. Life is about dreams. Without either of those things, why wold life be worth living? What is the old saying about being important in the life of a child..? Its true, I have seen it first hand. I am who I am today as a result of someone feeling the same way and hopefully, long after I have left this earth, people will be telling their grandchildren or great grandchildren about their dreams and the flights they took with me that fueled those dreams!

I still dream and I would hope that you do do too! If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, please contact one of the organizations below. Hopefully someone was important to you as a child and you can take the time to return that gift.

And whatever you do, never stop dreaming!

The Boy Scouts of America

EAA Young Eagles

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of San Diego

Richard J. Sears

Hi – I am the author – Richard Sears. I have been a pilot and flight instructor for over 20 years!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to arrange a free airplane or helicopter flight for your child (age 8 to 18) through the EAA Young Eagles please email me at

Parents are more than welcome to ride along and get hooked!

My Cross Country Flight Crew

Sometimes, getting into your car, or in my case my helicopter, and heading out into the vast unknown is just the thing to make an afternoon a lot more fun than it was turning out to be.

Several weeks ago, I decided to take 4142G out to the Colorado river by the California and Arizona border. It was not a planned trip, but the weather was fantastic and I was looking for a reason to go flying and decided that a nice flight out to the river would be a lot of fun.

In my neighborhood, many of the kids have flown with me in my plane via the EAA Young Eagles Program. The Young Eagles program helps to introduce young people ages 8 to 18 to the world of aviation by arranging a free ride in an aircraft. The idea is to spark an interest in aviation in the younger generation and hopefully pave the way for some of those kids to enter into an aviation related career.

Anyway, anyone that knows me knows that I look for any excuse to fly at all. Be it the EAA Young Eagle Program, the Boy Scout Aviation Merit Badge program, or just the desire to go flying, I am always up for a trip. This particular Sunday I was looking for a neat place to go and happened to mention to my neighbor that I was going and had three seats available. In short order, I had those seats filled with the flight crew you see above.

Since 4142G is based out of Carlsbad California (KCRQ) my options were limited as to the route of flight I would take getting to the river, and in the process getting over the mountains between us and the river. In no time at all we had our ship preflighted, fueled, loaded and ready to go. The boys (two 11 year olds and a 12 year old) and I fired up 42G and we were soon headed east towards the desert. Only one of the boys had been in the helicopter with me before, so for the other two, this was their very first trip.

I had packed zip lock baggies just in case any of them were to start feeling sick. I always tell the kids that the nice thing about the zip lock baggies is that after you get sick, you have a squishie toy to play with on the way back! That generally gets everyone laughing. However, everything went fantastic and soon we were flying over the mountains, looking at all the pretty small lakes and trees and the Salton Sea, which is not very small at all. Mountains gave way to Joshua Tree National Park in the desert and we descended for a better look. All the boys were having a great time, and I was having a great time because they were having a great time (and besides, I was the guy flying, and that was great in itself). It is amazing what you see over the desert from the air. Rocks, trails, people, animals, you name it, its out there.

I know many people that fly, but I do not know very many that do not like to take someone up with them to give them the enjoyment of flight in a small aircraft of some type. I am no different. I get much satisfaction out of looking in to the faces of the people that I take flying and seeing the wonder and awe there. Besides the very art of flying, the best thing about flying to me is the enjoyment other people get when I take them flying. Two of these boys had never been flying with me before, and neither of them had been in anything smaller than a 20 or 25 passenger plane. So when we loaded up in a four place helicopter with maximum visibility in all directions, it was all grins all the way around.

The trip to and from the river was great and when we got there we took a few minutes to fly above the river and watch what was going on below us. The river was a beautiful blue and there were not very many boats on the river, but it was still very cool.

Colorado River

Colorado River

Of course no trip would be complete without a trip to Subway and the ice cream shop before heading back out, and this trip was no exception. We hiked about 1/4 mile to the Subway sandwich shop right around the corner from the airport and ate. Then it was a stop next door to hit the ice cream shop (hey I figured we were OK since no one had gotten sick on the way out) where we all had a scoop of ice cream before heading back to the helicopter. Along the way the boys picked up some interesting rocks, but not so many that I had to recalc our weight and balance!

Anyone Hungry

Anyone Hungry…?

Overall it was a fantastic trip. The boys had a blast and I was kept in stitches for five hours while two eleven year olds and a twelve year old talked about everything that is important to them at that age – school, family, friends, telling jokes, making fun of each other and just generally behaving like they didn’t have a care in the world, just as it should be.

Now you know why I fly.