If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine de St. Exupery – The Wisdom of the Sands

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a newspaper article and the old question came up again: “Why do you fly?”

I gave the standard vague answer about the different dimensions, the challenges, the joys – and that I simply have to fly.

Then, during an early morning departure out of Cape Town the answer came to me, when both the FO and I grabbed our cameras and snapped away to capture the beauty of the early morning fog reflecting the flaming hues, with the stark mountaintops protruding through the low cotton-cloud to be bathed in brilliant sunshine.


Just another departure, another sunrise – but we were captured, captured yet again by the intense beauty. This coupled to the sense of control, balance, power and achievement – and then I realised: We do what we do because it sets us apart. Its that constant yearning for the next horison. Or to paraphrase St. Exupery – that yearning for the vast and endless sky.



I don’t think an auditor would snap pictures of numbers to share on social media – “Hey, look at these books I’m doing today!” Or a lawyer dealing with yet another divorce, or a doctor dealing with another case of the common flu….

People in other occupations share their holiday pictures – “Hey, here we are at this exotic location! Having a great time! Cost a fortune!”

We do that too, but it is our work and our workplace which captures the imagination. We just snap an ordinary day at work and people react in amazement – “Stunning, you’re so lucky…”



That’s what sets us apart – we’re lucky. We enjoy what we do, we love what we do and we would not want to do anything else.

I know it’s not always a bed of roses. Sometimes life’s curved balls make different demands on us – but for the instinctive pilot giving up on flying is not a consideration. Inevitable it may eventually become, but the longer we can postpone the giving up, the loss of license, the retirement, the better.

Because there is always another horizon to cross, another aircraft to fly, another exotic memory to add!




One thought on “Why do we do what we do?

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