Since I can remember, I have always loved and appreciated anything with wings – birds, butterflies, and especially airplanes; anything to do with aviation. As a small boy growing up in a rural farming area, finding feathers and collecting them was special to me. It connected me to the magic that made the birds soaring above me swoop and fly in graceful circles.
It was with this feeling of joy and amazement of flying creatures that I eventually decided to become an aircraft technician after I had completed college. I was always fascinated with the systems that made airplanes work and I enjoyed working with my hands in a team environment. Even though I was leaving the mental health field that I had gone to university for, there was something that brought me back to my childhood and told me that aviation was indeed my calling.
I can see now in retrospect how important it is for us to follow our heart when life choices like career changes come up. Had I allowed the belief ‘How can I waste my psychology/philosophy degree by entering the aviation maintenance field?’ to jeopardize something that was so in line with my being and joy would have certainly been a much larger ‘waste’. Later I appreciated just how much those college degrees helped me in understanding and working harmoniously with people, which is actually the most important thing in every job as people should always be the focus over anything like profit or speed of production.
Not surprisingly, everything about aircraft maintenance school was fun and fascinating for me, and I really ate it up, learning about how airplanes are built and all the complex systems that make them work. I received excellent grades and graduated while having fun along the way. What this taught me was that when we follow our heart and trust that it is guiding us appropriately, things tend to fall into place and flow without effort, whereas when we go into doubt or fear about what might happen if we do make that heart-based decision, then things do not tend to align or fall into place naturally, as they otherwise would.
After getting the opportunity to work on all kinds of airplanes from small single-engine trainers, to turboprops and corporate jets, all the way up to large Boeing commercial airliners, I have come to some interesting observations. During that time, I was involved in various structural repairs and working on all kinds of aircraft systems that make the whole body of the airplane work. This brought me to the realisation that all airplanes are designed and manufactured in a way that is in a direct correlation to the way the human body is designed and functions.
For instance, the main structure of almost all airplanes is made up of aluminum frames (that wrap around the fuselage), stringers (that run the length of the fuselage), spars that support the wings and tail (they even call the main wing supports ‘ribs’), and metallic or composite skins that cover the wings, fuselage and tail sections, tying the whole structure together aerodynamically. To me this is obviously synonymous to the human skeletal system. There is even insulation that is placed in between these structural members of the fuselage that reminds me of the connective tissue of the human body that wraps around all our internal organs and muscular system. Speaking of muscles, all the hydraulic actuators that move the flight controls and landing gear/brakes are just like the muscles in our body moving our body parts, with the hydraulic fluid and lines in the airplane being like the blood and vascular system we have to move those muscles.
Another observation I have had is that the engines of an airplane are symbolic of the human heart, as they are the driving force that propels the airplane forward and everything else would come to a grinding halt without those engines turning out their incredible power, just as the human heart is the foundation that transfers the energy for everything else to work in the human body. Crawling inside the avionics bay the other day – with its myriad of electronics control modules and miles of wiring wrapping all around to all these black boxes that work their magic to control the navigational, control, and communications systems – made me realise how those control computers are like the various modules within the human brain (like the occipital lobe associated with sight and the temporal lobe with auditory functions, etc.), with all those wires being the nervous system of the aircraft, sending the signals out to make those functions happen in a coordinated and harmonious fashion.
Having made these correlations between the human body and airplanes over the years, it has occurred to me that it may be possible that our outer material creations have a correspondence to a divine origin, and that we attempt to replicate divine order and structure in the things that we create – as in that of airplanes.
Another thing that I have noticed while working on long term aircraft maintenance projects with a team of mechanics is that the times that strange problems pop up with the airplane – like a hydraulic line suddenly leaking or an autopilot controller failing even though it tested fine five minutes ago – is that these events seem to mirror the state of well-being and level of harmony within the team. It’s as if the airplane’s state of well-being is directly proportional to that of the crew working on it. On several occasions I have witnessed weird things happening in conjunction with internal struggles and emotional angst being displayed by the crew. I don’t feel it is a coincidence at all anymore.
Anyone who has had their personal computer crash on them right when they were stressing out about something could attest to what I am proposing here. It’s all about the energy that we put out that has an effect on electrical and mechanical devices around us. Comparatively, when we have been working in brotherhood and supporting each other without any competition or games being played, the work seems to flow better and the plane develops fewer problems.
Considering the relationships between airplanes and the human body that I have proposed above, sometimes I consider myself an airplane doctor, performing various intricate and delicate surgeries on its structure and systems, removing and replacing damaged components or removing corrosion (which is like a cancer for metal), and diagnosing and troubleshooting certain failures that do not have an obvious cause, as well as administering general preventive maintenance and servicing, such as cleaning areas that lead to corrosion, replenishing engine oils and hydraulic fluid, checking pressures and performing functional checks, etc. The tests that we do are synonymous with the many tests that people do in the medical field, such as blood work and CAT scans, physiotherapy range of motion and strength tests (similar to flight control travel checks), and many others.
For me, airplanes are incredible machines in the way that they can connect and bring together people from all over the planet and make our world feel smaller and more united, seeing that in the end we are all really the same no matter which country we are from. I love the feeling of working together with a team to put back together a huge airliner after a two-month heavy maintenance visit, appreciating the thousands of tasks my fellow mechanics have accomplished. It never ceases to amaze me as we watch this massive machine magically lift into the blue sky, knowing all the work and pieces of the puzzle that had to come together harmoniously to make it happen. It’s in these moments that I am reminded why I love airplanes so much.
By Michael Goodhart, Aircraft Technician, B.A. Psychology, Lover of Nature and being playful with life, North Carolina, USA