From The Mag

Primal Fuckin’ Fear

Written by The Fuckin' Pilot

Online Reprint

Originally printed in issue #89 (May 2017) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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fear drəɡ/ noun

1.
a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
Antonyms: courage, security, calm, intrepidity.

concern or anxiety; solicitude:
a fear for someone’s safety.

Fear is a topic I’ve covered quite a few times and let’s face it, that’s for a damn good reason! Fear can either be exactly what drives you to be as safe as possible, to think and re-think every action, check and re-check each piece of equipment, and drill for every eventuality; or it can be the exact reason you fail to do some, or all, of the above. I long ago decided that fear, to whatever extent I’ve felt it, has been a very good thing for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’ve had discussions with many people about fear and by and large, everyone seems not only to have their own take on how it manifests itself (or doesn’t) but how they process it, accept it and move on either with or past it. I was always able to mitigate fear by rationally looking at whatever might have been scaring the fuck out of me, putting my skills and experience up to the task, and deciding if they (and I) were good enough to deal with whatever might come my way. But never was I able to rid myself of it completely and to be honest, I’m thankful for it!

When I interviewed Noah Bahnson, professional wingsuit pilot and all around hardcore MoFo, I asked him where his personal line was since he was routinely doing things so far past my personal line that I couldn’t really relate. His answer? “I haven’t found it yet.” When I followed up by asking him how he felt about that, his response was, “It should make me nervous that it doesn’t make me nervous, but—it doesn’t!”

For me, anything past a humble little 270 on my Velo is past my personal comfort zone and, for lack of a better word, scares me. Why? Because I’ve seen a hell of a lot better canopy pilots than I will ever be leave the drop zone in ambulances, followed either by ages of painful rehab or heartfelt eulogies. For others, the thought of being anywhere near a Velo in flight is an absolutely terrifying prospect and so they act accordingly and stay the fuck away. In this respect, I truly believe that knowing your own personal limitations is extremely important. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: “The most important thing someone can know about themselves is what they are no fucking good at!”

For me as a pilot, the idea of flying through hardcore stormy Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) single pilot is about my worst fucking nightmare. I know exactly what to do and how to do it but instead of trying to beat back that particular demon with experience, I choose to stay out of it—with no remorse or regret. For a pilot with no trouble hopping in an aircraft alone and blasting through a storm on instruments, the idea of my balking at the idea may be funny, but that same pilot may find the prospect of flying just above stall speeds with a whole bunch of people hanging off the outside of your tail just as unacceptable as I do playing “Storm Chaser.” He may think pitching straight down and practically folding the wings back to beat the tandems to the ground is way out of line but for me, I’ll do that while sipping coffee and changing the song on my iPod. It’s all in your personal perspective.

But what about those irrational fears? The ones that make you stand down from a load because you had a bad feeling? The one that tells you it was a bad omen that your pin necklace broke and makes you decide to skip the DZ for the day? Are the fears that don’t make any rational sense ones you should just ignore? Well I suppose that depends on who you talk to. In my opinion, they are just as real as that dust devil, just as real as the worn-out gear the DZ you’re visiting is trying to rent to you, just as real as the spaz on the plane you can tell is gonna fuck something or someone up … I don’t for one second believe you should disregard those fears because they can quite quickly become self-fulfilling prophecies that bite you in the ass!

Like I said, I believe fear is a good thing. Fear keeps you sharp as long as you can control it and use it to your advantage. Fear isn’t panic, fear isn’t terror—fear is the mentor, fear is the teacher, fear is the little voice in the back of your head that manages to keep you from doing some of the epically stupid shit you might otherwise get up to.

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