Dreams Can Come True

Dreams Can Come True

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Dreams Can Come True
“I think my passion for [flying] started when I was in high school”, Gary Chambers told me as I sat down in his beautiful home in the hills of Serrano, a very upscale, gated community in El Dorado Hills, California. He was wearing a tropical shirt and bahama shorts with a pair of Teva sandals on his feet. He offered me a soda and then sat down across from me. We were sitting in matching black leather love seats with a tan and gray granite coffee table separating us. Despite the fact that he agreed to the interview and seemed eager to talk to me, he seemed uncomfortable during our conversation. He indicated to me that he wanted to get started right away. I was given the impression that he was a guy that did not like to waste time, but instead liked to get right down to business. I started asking him questions and I could see his eyes light up as he was talking about his zeal towards flying. He was like a burst dam flooding me with the story of his life and how he became his dream.
He was just your typical high school kid until he decided to take Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). Springing out of bed each day, showering and dressing as quickly as possible, he rushed out of the door, saying goodbye to his parents and hurried his way to school. The journey to school was not as bad for him as it was for other kids because he resided right down the street. He was not anxious to get to school, but eager to go to his Air Force ROTC class. Although he did not love the Air Force, his passion for flying was what motivated him to come to school early everyday and talk to the Colonel that was teaching the class. He was a dry sponge and he wanted to soak up all the flying knowledge that the Colonel had. Gary continued to probe the Colonel for erudition until he graduated.
     After he finished high school, Gary moved on to college. He chose to matriculate at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where he received his Batchelor’s Degree in civil engineering. The Air Force, he was hoping, would be able to give him the career he desired. Disappointingly, the position that Gary wanted was not available at that time through the Air Force.

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He was then offered a job with Cal-Trans (California department of transportation) in Sacramento. He enthusiastically took it. The job required him to become a pilot. He had studied and researched so much in his life that he already knew


what school he wanted to go to. That school was Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. This was not an unknown school to him. It had been highly recommended by almost every pilot he talked to. It is one of the most prestigious flight academies in the United States of America.
     The job he had allowed him to continue working while going to classes at night. He was just working during the day and obtaining his Master’s Degree in aeronautical science at night. The classes he took were at a satellite campus at Travis Air Force Base in the bay area. It was very convenient for the level of education he was getting; he was able to work and still attend a highly accredited university at night. This was like a dream come true for him. Upon receiving his Master’s Degree, Gary was ready to conquer the world. He was still doing the same job that he had been doing but with his Master’s Degree, he had a lot more opportunities for advancement.
     One such opportunity arose for him not long after he achieved his Master’s Degree. He was given the opportunity to supervise a team of 4 people. His job is very complicated. He is an inspector of all non commercial airports in California. Being the leader if his team, they are responsible for two hundred and forty six airports throughout California. Every airport from San Diego to Eureka is in their AO (area of operations). Each airport is inspected once a year. The airports are inspected for runway debris, takeoff and landing clearance, runway light functionality, and safety measures. When an airport does not pass the inspection they are given a chance to fix their discrepancies. If they fail to do so they can be fined and the last measure is to shut the airport down. Gary has a normal Monday through Friday work schedule and has weekends off. It was during one of these normal work days that a very unforgettable event took place.
Gary had taken off from Sacramento Executive Airport and was climbing through the clouds on his way to cruising altitude, ten thousand feet. It was at this time when he received a radio transmission unlike anything he had ever experienced in his career as a pilot. A radio transmission came through ordering him to land at the nearest runway with no questions asked. He heard some radio traffic from other pilots and they were saying something about a plane crashing into a building. Gary immediately thought back to the times when he heard about a plane crashing into a building because the pilot fell asleep and the engine malfunctioning and causing the plane to “fall from the sky” , as Gary put it. He had other ideas in the back of his mind but he was not sure as to why they were being grounded. Annoyance was the


majority of what he was feeling because air traffic control wouldn’t tell him why he was being grounded. Being a professional pilot, he followed orders from air traffic control and landed the plane at the Fresno
Yosemite International Airport. He was clueless until he walked in to the terminal and saw CNN. All this happened on September 11, 2001.
     All of the events of that tragic day inspired many changes in the day to day operations of airports and airplanes. There were numerous alterations suggested, but they are merely suggestions. The Federal Government can not require airports to make modifications without providing funding for those modifications. Therefore, most of the changes that were made turned out to be guidelines that were recommended but not mandatory. These guidelines include but are not limited to, electric fences, extra security and twenty four hour surveillance. The commercial airports began extra screening of passengers and baggage, not letting people without tickets in the terminal, and extra security guards patrolling the airports. The commercial jets have been upgraded with extra think, “blast proof” cockpit doors. All pilots are also given the chance to train with the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in a gun safety
and shooting course. The pilots that choose to participate in this schooling will be able to have a pistol in a lockbox in the cockpit. Not every pilot elects to undergo this instruction. You never know if the pilot of your plane has taken the course or not, and not many people out there want to take the chance and find out.
     When I asked Gary if anything that has happened within the past few years has affected his adoration for flying I was given an unanticipated answer. “Not at all”, Gary replied. I asked why he was not influenced by what has happened. He responded with, “I love flying and nothing anybody does will ever change what I love to do.” Gary had a dream when he first encountered the possibility of flying and it later developed into a passion. He wanted to be a pilot and he made that happen through hard work and determination. He told me as he was walking me to the door of his beautiful home, “Anybody can do anything they want to as long as they are determined. Nothing can stop determination.” I left his doorway knowing that anything is possible and that if I dedicate myself to what I want to do, I can do anything.
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