Don’t settle for the ordinary. If you want something extraordinary, go out and get it. Do what you need to do to get there, and don’t shy away from hard work or effort. Change is difficult but the rewards are amazing.
“All systems are go.”
The calm voice crackled in my earphones as I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. The parachute strapped to my back and forming part of my seat did little to calm my nerves. I could feel the adrenaline building inside me as a single bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and into my eye.
Looking to my left, I could see Colonel Richard (Rick) Searfoss, confident, collected, going through the pre-flight checklist. I was thankful that I was in the hands of this experienced pilot and astronaut, who had completed 3 shuttle flights, and served as a US Navy Test Pilot in another life prior to joining us as our test pilot.
And there I was, sitting in the right seat; flight test engineer for this test flight of the X-Racer, a modified hand-built Velocity aircraft. The Velocity had originally been built with a conventional piston engine fitted to the rear of the vehicle. The Velocity I was sitting in today did not have a conventional engine. It had been removed, and in its place was a 2600 lb. thrust rocket engine, running on a mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen.
The kerosene was stored in the original fuel tanks within the wings of the plane. The liquid oxygen (lox) was stored in a tank immediately behind our seats. The rear seats had been removed to enable installation of the tank.
For all intents and purposes, this was akin to riding a highly explosive bomb … bareback.
But there I was strapped in, waiting, as I heard the countdown. “3 … 2 … 1 … ignition.”
It was too late to get out now.
I had no choice.
My heart beat a rapidly in my chest, my breathing was irregular and my hands curled into tight fists, as time stopped.
“We have ignition”, I heard the Colonel say, as I looked at the console dashboard where I could see the rocket engine roar into life, spitting blue, yellow and red flames behind us.
My job as flight test engineer was surprisingly simple … I was expected to watch the flame from the engine; there was a camera mounted on the rear wing tips aimed at the engine, with a feed directly to the cockpit. I was to inform the Colonel of any abnormality I saw in the flame as we conducted the flight test.
The plane rapidly gained speed as it literally rocketed down the runway, bouncing and shaking like it was trying to tear itself to pieces … or perhaps it was trying to outrun the forces that propelled it?
After what seemed an eternity, but was really only about 13 seconds, the plane lifted from the runway.
We rotated to the right and pointed our nose to the heavens.
The sky was deep blue with nary a cloud.
And appeared endless.
My entire body was pushed backwards into the seat, the thrust from the rocket engine continuing to accelerate us through the air as we went higher and higher. The rattling reduced to a level of vibration that was scary but not as horrifying as it had been.
I took my eyes off the engine flames for a moment and glanced out the window … we were already 8 or 9 thousand feet up, with no sign of slowing down.
The noise of the engine permeated the earphones as a loud thrum, and penetrated our bones in a similar way a deafening subwoofer might.
And then, suddenly, nothing.
I was thrown forward in my seat, caught by the full harness seat belts.
Acceleration stopped dead.
Noise was replaced by silence.
Glancing at the monitor in front of me I saw a flicker of blue and orange as the flames died.
The left side of the plane dipped violently as the pilot sent it into a rapid barrel roll.
Before I knew it, we were flying inverted … heads pointed groundward before the roll was completed.
And we were right side up once more.
“3 … 2 … 1 … ignition” came the colonel’s voice once more. Again, the engine fired up, a long trail of flames shooting out, the shock diamonds (blue diamonds that can be seen in the flames when the rocket engine is running efficiently) visible on the monitor I was watching.
In seconds we were again facing straight up, shooting into the endless sky under rocket power.
I was now enjoying the adventure.
The adrenaline had done its work. I tried to remember a time when I had felt so alive as I did at that moment.
Again, the engine was turned off … and again relit.
Shutting a rocket down in flight and re-lighting it, in flight, was a huge technological advancement, and one that differentiated our company from the few competitors in our field.
As we coasted back to the runway in the Mojave desert, the heat haze shimmering below us, the plane buffeted by the strong breeze that had sprung up seemingly from nowhere, and my job being done, I could now spare a moment to think about how I – a finance guy, an accountant, a marketing guy – could have found himself sitting in the right seat of a rocket-powered airplane, doing the job of flight test engineer.
I am guessing that there are fewer than 500 people alive today who have flown in a rocket plane of any sort. And here I was, about to land on a little airstrip in the desert, having flown in an experimental rocket vehicle.
Looking back to that day, a decade ago, and thinking about my journey in life, there are a few small, simple insights I have that I think would be worthy of sharing.
- We often think about journeys as being arduous, hard, perhaps even a test of our courage. This can be true, but the journey should also (and perhaps more importantly) be filled with adventure, fun, enjoyment, and ultimately allow you to look back and love the life you have lived
- Journeys may have an element of risk, an indeterminate destination, or even no destination. But the best journeys are those where there are: direction, objectives, and broad-stroke goals. Bobbing meaninglessly like an empty bottle on the ocean, driven by wind and tide, may be a journey in life, but will result in life determining what happens to you, rather than you being in control of your own direction.
- Fun and adventure await those who follow their hearts, if you also do the work, and take the steps necessary to allow opportunity to come knocking. And if you are brave enough to answer the call.
Over the coming weeks I will give you guidance that will lead you toward a life of abundance and fulfillment, and if you desire, adventure. You will learn how to think about money and finances, relationships, health and other factors that may be keeping you from living the life you want to live.
Change may not be easy, in fact it can be extremely difficult when you don’t know where or how to start.
But change can only happen if you make it happen!
Why not start the process by telling me in the comments below what you would like for your life? Just one word will be enough for you to start the process of change.
Until next time….