November Echo

november-echoMatt slipped into the noise sanitized environment without a sound, coffee cup in hand. “You know, those work better if you aim them the other direction.”

Logan had been caught red-handed. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. The binoculars on his desk were intended to pinpoint the planes aloft, not the people on the tarmac below.

“You could just ask her out,” Matt continued as he set the coffee cup down on the table, preparing to take over the next shift for his colleague.

“Yeah, I know,” admitted Logan. Even though it should’ve been a simple action, asking a girl out, Logan felt challenged. In an ironic way, he lived up to his name. Logan let people roll over top of him, like a log. He always seemed to be at the mercy of others, which was even more ironic since he served as a tower controller who was paid to give orders and enforce regulations in the airspace around the airport.

Nicole Evans. That was her name. Logan had found out that much. She was the newest flight instructor on the staff. The binoculars rose to his eyes every time Logan saw her feet hit the tarmac. Sometimes he felt like a stalker, even though he was the furthest thing from that. Logan just thought that if he could see her smile once more, like he’d seen in the parking lot when they had first met, maybe he could summon the courage to take the next step, ask her out. Their paths had crossed many times since, casual conversations shared between the two, but nothing beyond trivial nuances of the weather or flight conditions for the day.

Caught in a momentary lapse of concentration, a dangerous passivity for an air traffic controller, Matt’s urgent voice finally registered. “You have an incoming.”

“Tower, November Two Niner Five Oscar Lima, on base for runway five, over?” The panicked voice came through the headset with a little more emphasis as his first request was seemingly ignored. Logan scurried to the appropriate microphone switch, depressed it, and replied, “Niner Five Oscar Lima, cleared final runway five, winds zero four zero at five knots.”

Logan redirected his binoculars skyward, watching the Cessna Skyhawk bank left on to final approach, then scanning the adjacent area to be sure there were no obstacles interfering with the plane’s final maneuver before landing.

Matt continued to offer up words not requested, “Dude, you turn twenty-eight tomorrow. Why don’t you loosen up a bit, take a chance for once in your life?” Logan was thinking, but not answering. Matt continued, “I’ve known you now, for what, five years? I’ve never seen you on a date, let alone a steady girlfriend. I’ve never seen you so taken with anyone like you are with Nicole.”

Just the way her name traveled across the space between them and alighted on his being made Logan smile. “Dude, you’re caught, hook, line, and sinker. Just ask her out. If you don’t do it, I’ll do it for you. Consider it my birthday present to you.”

Logan considered letting his colleague do the asking for him, but something struck a chord in him at that moment, the commitment to his course of action solidified. It was that voice again. Not Matt’s, but the one echoing in his left ear. “November Four Two Niner Lima Sierra, at runway five, ready for takeoff, departure to the southeast.”

How could a voice spoken through a cheap headset with a deafening propellor sound spinning in the background be so intoxicating? “Two Niner Lima Sierra, cleared for takeoff runway five, departure to the southeast approved, good day.” He already knew the response, partially because Logan knew the rules, and also because he’d come to know Nicole better than she might know, even if they had never spent any significant time together.

“Two Niner Lima Sierra, cleared for takeoff, departure to the southeast approved, keep smiling.” It was required to confirm receipt of the commands given, and customary to reply with ‘good day’, an informal thanks for services provided. Nicole always took it a step farther, her ‘keep smiling’ reply was unique, just like her effect on Logan.

“So, are you gonna do it?”

“I will,” replied Logan, and he meant it, even if it wasn’t the most direct route towards his goal.

It was like it was meant to be. Her car was parked right next to his. Logan fumbled through his wallet, looking for any scrap of paper. Scribbling his message and number on the back of the grocery receipt, Logan tucked it under her wiper and departed, feeling victorious, yet anxious.

The drone of the plane’s engine lulled Nicole into complacency as her student navigated over the open waters to practice the required disorientation maneuvers. The final words she heard, ‘good day’, seemed to carry with it a tiny inflection that she wished, or hoped, was something more. That was it, she thought. If he didn’t make a move by tomorrow, she’d muster up the courage to do it herself. She knew it was his birthday tomorrow, and she had a perfect way to ask him out. Nicole smiled with anticipation.

“I’m sorry,” Matt humbly offered as Logan walked into the tower the next day. Logan parked next to Nicole’s car, still in the same spot, still with his note safely tucked beneath the wiper blade. No one could have predicted the wind shear that arrived in the most untimely moment, midway through a forty-five degree bank. There was never any way for the plane to recover with the limited altitude at the pilot’s disposal.

Months later, Logan could still hear her final words reverberate through his headset on that November evening, keep smiling. Logan forced himself to do just that, however difficult it was, in memory of the relationship with a different November Echo that never came to be, a reminder to live life and take chances while you have the opportunity.


Take flight


Author’s Note: This is the final chapter of a story previously published. If you would like to read the first part, please visit Sizzle.

It was the jarring memory from eleven years in the past that put Bryan on edge. It involved his sister and her disappearance in a single engine plane while en route to the Bahamas. The wreckage was never located, if there was any in the first place. There was no closure to a tormenting time in Bryan’s life. He was left with unanswered questions and a debilitating apprehension that required any separation of his feet from the earth below him.

“I appreciate the offer, but no thanks,” replied Bryan. He felt guilty turning down the opportunity to extend their relationship beyond the final fifteen minutes of his last cooking class, but this was too far out of his comfort zone. Way too far. Bryan didn’t know, however, that Ted was not only outgoing and personable, he was also quite persuasive.

“C’mon dude, it’d be a blast. Listen, you come with me and I’ll dress up to the nines to attend one of your fancy jazz concerts,” retorted Ted.

Bryan, feeling fidgety even allowing himself to consider the offer, attempted to voice his concern, “It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just …”

Ted sensed the body language being communicated by Bryan. He didn’t allow the silence to hang in the air for too long, “You scared?” he asked. Although it wasn’t part of his normal character, Ted didn’t look at Bryan as he said it so as not to appear too condescending.

“Yes … and no, I don’t know,” replied Bryan, who was confused himself by the response.

“Flip the shrimp, man, they’re gonna burn,” admonished Ted. Bryan had gotten so caught up in his emotions and repressed memories that he lost track of the prawns beginning to char in the skillet for the second time.

Returning to the methodical routine of stirring, listening to the sizzling oscillate in volume as the shrimp were moved from one side of the skillet to the other, Bryan suddenly felt an inviting calmness wash over him. He shared exactly why he rejected Ted’s offer, right down to the very last painful detail. It wasn’t something that Bryan ever felt comfortable doing, spilling his guts, but it felt good, and therapeutic.

Who knows whether it was Ted’s decision to be a sounding board in what he would usually consider an uncomfortable baring of the soul, or if it was a few teaspoons of compassion that he had intuitively added to the recipe of his own soul. Whatever it was, Ted’s compelling argument aimed at Bryan kicked into high gear.

“Hey, it’s safer than driving. There are less planes in the air than there are cars on a highway. And you can be sure as hell that there are plenty of drivers on the road that shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. Every pilot has to go through a flight review every two years.”

Sensing that Bryan was getting closer to favorable reception of his argument, but not quite there yet, he continued on, playing to the intellectual mind of his cooking partner, “These planes are awesome gliders. They have a five to one glide ratio. That means if we’re five thousand feet in the air and we lose the engine – highly unlikely mind you – we have a twenty five mile radius to find a place to put her down safely – in a field, on the beach, even on a back road. Hey, I’m that good, you know it,” he said with a devilish grin.

tux-with-bow-tieBryan was still quiet, but Ted could see he was on the cusp of winning over his friend’s allegiance. So, he went for the knockout punch. “Hey, you do this, and I’ll even wear a bow tie to the jazz concert.”

The smile that spread across Bryan’s face sealed the deal. It didn’t mean it was going to be easy, but Bryan could not pass up the opportunity to see Ted in a bow tie. He’d have his camera at the ready to preserve that moment, for sure.

It was a crisp, fall Saturday morning, uncharacteristic for this time of year in Florida. Ted was going through his pre-flight calculations when Bryan came through the hangar door. The look on Bryan’s face was as if he had just come face to face with a banshee preying on his soul to strip him of his very existence. He knew it was unreasonable, but he couldn’t help how he felt.

As Ted completed the walk-around of his aircraft, he explained everything that he was doing to assuage the fear radiating from Bryan’s skin – checking the oil and fuel level, confirming the operation of flaps, ailerons, and elevators, insuring proper inflation in the landing gear tires. Ted was extra vigilant to be sure that he was following every protocol, and to give Bryan time to warm up to what was coming next.

As Ted pushed the window open and yelled, “Clear prop!”, he started the engine and contacted the tower for clearance. He glanced over at Bryan and spoke to him through the headsets on their heads, “Hey, lighten up bro. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.” Bryan feigned a smile.

As they sat perched at the end of a runway, like a bird resting on a twig, they awaited clearance for takeoff. “November four-niner-one foxtrot tango, you are cleared for takeoff, departure to the south approved,” came the announcement from the tower controller.

“Here we go,” said Ted as he advanced the throttle slowly to full power. Everything began to escalate in intensity – the noise, the vibration, the heartbeat. Bryan’s entire body was tensing up in protest, holding on to the door handle, half thinking he could still open it and jump out without too much injury.

And then … his feet were no longer connected to the earth below him. The noise level diminished, the vibration levels receded, and it felt as if he was being carried gently into the heavens above him, ever so closer to his sister. Despite the reduced levels of noise and vibration, Bryan’s heartbeat did not follow suit.

It didn’t remain elevated out of fear. Rather, the feelings tugging at his heart transformed from ones of fear to ones of awe and inspiration. The landscape unfolding before him left Bryan breathless. The Atlantic Ocean looked like a sheet of glass, the rising sun just peeking over the tips of the cumulus clouds sitting on the horizon.

Inexplicably and uncontrollably, one word came from Bryan’s lips through the headset, “Wow.”

Ted peeked over and saw the more relaxed look on his passenger’s face, “Yeah, I think that’s what everyone says the first time they experience this. Let me tell you, it’s rather addictive, in a good way of course.”

sunrise-atlantic-oceanWe’re born alone, we live alone, and we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. ~ Orson Welles

This was no illusion. Bryan was sure of it. And even if it was some deceptive imagery from an alternate universe, even if none of this was really real, he couldn’t possibly deny the presence of the emotions coursing through his veins. Yep, this was good enough for him. Well, almost good enough. He still couldn’t wait to see Ted in a bow tie. There was no way he was going to let him wriggle out of that one. It was another memory – in what appeared to be an unlikely friendship – that would make his life one worth remembering, alone or not.

Looking back

yellow-traffic-lightThe approaching traffic light, color turning from green to yellow, beckons a decision. I look forward to assess the traffic flow ahead of me, I glance in the rear view mirror to gauge the distance of the vehicle trailing behind me, and I take notice of my present position on the road. Neurons fire in my brain that sends a conflicting message to my right foot. Depress the accelerator to avoid getting rear-ended, or apply full brakes to avoid running a red light. In a split second, I have looked forward, looked back, and somehow also remained in the present.

We are presented with what seems like an infinite number of choices, every second of every day. Some provide more significant consequences than others, but they are decisions to be made nonetheless. Accelerator or brake? Chicken sandwich or hamburger? Remain in the comfort of your hometown or move a thousand miles away to a new job and a fresh beginning?

As I sit at the red light that I have successfully navigated, the single engine airplane flying overhead reminds me of the delicate balance between looking forward, glancing back, and staying present.

During the practical test required as a part of obtaining my private pilot license, I knew it was coming. It was a skill that needed to be tested in order to assess my aptitude for operating an aircraft as pilot-in-command. You are taught to always remain two steps ahead of the airplane. Remain cognizant of every potential pitfall that may arise while you are thousands of feet in the air. It’s not only required to pass the practical test. It’s essential to remaining safe.

The mesmerizing murmur from the piston engine through your headset and the spinning propeller lures you into a complacent state. Until that sound and that movement is no longer present. The aviation examiner has reached across with her left hand and retracted the throttle lever to idle. “You have just lost your engine”, she says. “What do you do now?” There is a checklist for everything, so I carefully work through the memorized steps: assessing my altitude, locating a suitable landing spot, reporting an emergency over the proper communication channel, and attempting to restart the engine, all while gently and slowly bringing the aircraft closer to the earth as a glider. After living this experience firsthand, it is easier to appreciate why staying ahead of the airplane, looking forward, is more important than staying in the present and admiring the scenery.

I think about how this relates to my everyday life outside of an airplane cockpit. How much time do I spend looking forward, looking back, and staying present? And what is the right amount of each? As evidenced by my experience as a pilot, looking forward keeps you from enjoying the present, those moments right in front of you. Living in the past leads you to stagnate, either constantly relishing in past accomplishments and experiences or playing the “if only” game that plagues our psyche at times. And staying too present prevents you from learning from the past and planning for the future.

I have been looking in the rear view mirror more often lately, in my personal life, in my professional life, and in what I like to call my writing life. And they have some very interesting parallels to one another.

There are things I wish I would have said. There are things I had hoped to handle differently. The decisions themselves and their consequences are irrelevant. What was significant for me was deciding to acknowledge the decisions that were made and reflect on them accordingly. I didn’t obsess on my choices, although it was tempting. The key to my sanity was the decision to glance, as I did when looking in the rear view mirror of my car, and not hyper focus on the past.

In my writing life, I look back at the first few posts that I composed as a part of this blog. Looking at those pieces, I often mutter under my breath, “What in the world was I thinking?” and almost laugh at the absurdity of the content. Poorly written, maybe. Embarrassing, likely. Authentic, absolutely.

I am what most would call a recovering perfectionist. And you would think that my desire to go back and tinker with those pieces from the past would be impossible to resist. Truth is, I never have done so. Maybe it’s because it would be too much work, Maybe it’s because I’m lazy. But, more than anything, I know that it’s because one of my guiding principles is to remain vulnerable and authentic.

Those pieces, however malformed they may have been, were an accurate reflection of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions at that time in my life. Going back and reading them may be difficult for my discerning perfectionist eye. But, there is more to a piece of writing than the words. There is the emotion and feeling held in the space between the words and decisions. And in that sense, to me, these are works of art. They tell a story of my growth as a writer and as a human being.

Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life – and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again. ~Robert Brault

rear-view-mirrorI am sure that another year from now, I will look back on a piece I wrote today, on decisions that were made and mutter the same thing beneath my breath, “What was I thinking?” And in a strange and somewhat peculiar sort of way, I actually hope that is exactly what happens. It means I will have grown just a little bit more.


Flying solo

cherokeeWhen you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly. ~Edward Teller

For as long as I can remember, I have been the boy at the end of the airport runway, fingers firmly grasped around the chain link fence. As I imagine my hands caressing the controls, I watch as the departing aircraft passes directly overhead. In a cathartic ritual, I exhale all negative thoughts as the engine noise recedes. Leaving the friendly confines of Mother Earth, another pilot embarks upon an adventure into the mystical kingdom above the layer of cumulus clouds.

Someday I will fly. I utter this proclamation beneath my breath, day after day, month after month, year after year. Until one day, the tipping point is reached. It is no longer a wish for the future. It is now a reality for the current day. With the support of my wife (correction, because she supported me), my training begins. I had been an avid flight simulation enthusiast for years before this step into the unknown. Instead of looking at a two dimensional interpretation of the world through a computer monitor, I now have a wide angle view of the real world in all its glory through the front windshield of a Piper Cherokee cockpit.

Becoming a pilot requires an eclectic mix of technical knowledge in the areas of mechanics, aerodynamics, meteorology, and communication along with an artistic element of feel and intuition as you choreograph a beautiful dance across the sky through various required maneuvers in your aircraft.

Acquiring this knowledge and intuitive feel necessitates an effective working relationship between student pilot and flight instructor. Without that bond, a virtual glue that keeps desire, knowledge, and proficiency in concert, the acquisition of a private pilot certificate is difficult to come by.

airport_traffic_patternI had one of the best relationships with my flight instructor. His fine balance of technical acumen, encouraging attitude, and demanding performance standards helped me to reach an important training milestone in record time. I was prepared to solo an aircraft for the first time. I would be pilot in command. I would be responsible for overcoming gravity, lifting the landing gear from the solid pavement below me. I would also be responsible for placing it back in the same intact position after a tour of the traffic pattern. Upwind, crosswind, downwind, base, and final. Simple in words, difficult in practice. No worries.

Those words, no worries, still ring true with me today. I use them constantly with my family, my friends, my colleagues, as well as complete strangers. My use of these two words originated with my flight instructor. At all the right moments throughout my training, these words spoken by my instructor carried a wave of calmness like a magic elixir. One of those moments was upon me now.

As we completed our fifth touch and go on runway 09L at KMLB, I cut the throttle, retracted the flaps, and applied brake pressure to decelerate the aircraft to a safe runway exit speed. With as much grace as I could muster, I guided the aircraft clear of the active runway and onto the taxiway. As I prepped the aircraft for our next touch and go, I learned that our next touch and go was going to be my touch and go. The latch on the aircraft door was disengaged. As I looked over, my flight instructor was stepping out on to the wing. It was time. Solo time.

The message being sent to my nervous system traveled faster than a supersonic jet with afterburners engaged. Accelerating heartbeat, sweaty palms, jittery legs. It was time, but I was not convinced that I was ready. Before the aircraft door was sealed shut again, my instructor’s eyes met mine. With a grin on his face, he uttered the magic words, “You are ready for this, no worries.”

The words dissipated all anxiety as a hot knife cuts through butter. Yes, I am ready. As I prepared for my first foray into the wild blue yonder as pilot in command, everything fell into place.

I have an innate passion for aviation. I was born with it. Through inspiration from the skies above, it has manifested itself in the form of a private pilot certificate after years of declaring someday. My proudest personal accomplishment to date, it is partially so because of my desire to acquire this skill of piloting an aircraft. More so, however, it is my proudest accomplishment because I had the courage to take that step into what seemed like an eternal abyss of darkness.

As the tower controller clears me for departure from runway 09L, I align the nose wheel on the runway centerline and advance the throttle. As the critical airspeed approaches, I apply smooth back pressure on the yoke until the friction between aircraft wheels and runway is no more. I have reached the end of my personal light. The sun is shining brilliantly outside my cockpit window, but I am on the precipice of darkness. Darkness of the unknown. And as I rely on my pact with faith, I have been taught how to fly. In so many different ways. No worries.

Instrument approach

runway-lights“United 315, you are cleared to land runway 18R, winds 135 at 10 knots. Follow company traffic ahead on short final, report runway in sight.”

As I press my forehead against the window pane of seat 22F, I hear this radio transmission between the cockpit and Orlando tower through my headphones. I see nothing out the window but the pulsating navigation lights coming from the wingtips of the Airbus A320 aircraft. Like a rotating lighthouse beacon, I hold hope that this light has the power to cut through the fog outside like a knife through hot butter. Or at the very least, alert other aircraft in the area that we own this space for the next five minutes until we are safely on the ground and taxiing towards the gate.

It is always somewhat disconcerting to travel in darkness. Couple that with fog thicker than pea soup and you have an instant recipe for anxiety. As my eyes wander around the cabin, fellow passengers have their heads buried in puzzle books, novels, or newspapers as the flying machine we have put our faith in bounces through the turbulent air outside, bound for the welcoming row of runway lights that signify our destination.

Perhaps it’s the remnants of a memory from long ago that puts me on edge. Or maybe it’s the caffeine from the complimentary coffee served earlier on this flight from Houston to Orlando. Either way, my senses are alert, anticipating the unexpected.

The mood and demeanor in the cockpit, of course, is completely different. Armed with the instruments to navigate safely to our destination, the pilot and co-pilot are bringing the aircraft closer to the ground with every passing second. Without being able to see it.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Each day of our life is similar to an airline flight. Some days we see nothing but sunshine as we soar above the clouds while viewing the magnificence of the world around us in all its beauty. Other days, we are left to navigate around pesky cumulonimbus clouds that threaten us with storms that we must weather. And on those really challenging days, we are stuck in fog so thick that we hyperventilate with anxiety. We are unsure of which direction to navigate. Will we find clear skies ahead? Or, will we be mired in the muck for what seems like an eternity?

This is where our own instruments come in handy. Just as an aircraft has instruments built into its core, we carry analogous tools as human beings. Heart. Soul. Intuition. Faith. We may not always know what the future holds, but we can choose to summon courage, to step forth into the darkness, confident that the rising sun is just over the horizon.

believe-in-wonderfulAs our aircraft descends through 500 feet above ground level, the twinkling lights from the civilization below magically appear and wave to greet us. As the wheels touchdown and the reverse thrusters engage, I acknowledge the faith I have entrusted in the people and machine that have returned me home safely. I am reminded to carry the same faith inside when it comes to making those seemingly blind decisions in the fog of our everyday lives.

As we taxi off the runway, I reach for the headphones on my ears. I pause momentarily as I listen to one last radio transmission, “Southwest 2007, cleared to land runway 18R, Airbus A320 exiting the runway.” The aircraft behind us is on final approach. As I think about the potentially restless passengers on that flight, I send a silent thought through the cosmos. Have faith my friend and you will get where you need to be.

Inspiration from above

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

airplaneFebruary 20, 2006 – As the main gear of my Piper Warrior touched down on runway 05 for the final maneuver of my private pilot practical test, I could release some of the tension built up in my body. All that remained was a taxi to the ramp. As the aircraft came to a gentle halt, I checked the operation of both magnetos before shutting down the engine.

The silence was deafening. There is a considerable decibel difference between the never-ending churn of an aircraft’s piston engine while running and the quiet solitude while parked on the tarmac. However, that was not why the silence was deafening. I was awaiting words from the designated pilot examiner in the seat beside me. With a grin (which was good sign) and an outstretched hand, she uttered the words I was longing to hear, “Congratulations, you are a pilot.”

This was the proudest and most significant accomplishment in my personal life. Yes, I have a college degree. Yes, I have been promoted through the corporate chain. But those were things I was supposed to do. This passion for aviation, it’s something I chose to do. This was such a powerful insight once I was able to witness the effect that it has had on me and my choices in life.

Choose the path you wish to follow, not the path you are expected to follow. The power of choice is undeniable and it will make all the difference to both you and the people around you.

As a child, I was fascinated with aviation. I would be the kid perched at the end of a runway on the edge of my seat waiting for the next arrival or departure. It could be a screaming military jet, a wide body jumbo passenger transport, or a single engine piston bird. It just didn’t matter. It was just … awesome. Some would say I am still a child in this respect for I am as enamored with aviation today as I was back then.

Although scientific calculations validate that an airplane weighing over 400 tons is able to leave earth and sustain flight, there is always an element of awe and wonder that I feel when I witness this seemingly impossible feat. It reminds me to appreciate the beauty of everyday occurrences, keep your senses alive to uncover all the world has to offer, and never let anyone compromise your dreams.

bumblebeeAccording to all known laws of aviation, there’s no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to lift its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway – because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible. ~ The Bee Movie

Be the bee and do the thing that can’t be done 😉

With all the courage you can muster, you line up on the runway and put faith and trust in your aircraft. You point yourself into the wind to optimize lift and prepare for takeoff.

How ironic is it that we intentionally point ourselves in the face of adversity (the wind) to better achieve our goal? And adversity doesn’t stagnate. It’s always evolving. If you don’t believe me, observe a few minutes of  summer weather in Florida and I’ll show you how 15 minutes can make a colossal difference. Sunny skies become a hail storm in what seems like the blink of an eye.

dream of flightCan we take this same approach to other goals and ambitions? That same volatile atmosphere exists in our everyday life. We each have a unique set of barriers to hurdle en route to our goals. If we are able to recognize those things that block our way, we can take direct aim and confront them head-on. We can find a way to use them to our advantage instead of letting them take advantage of us.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

We may not all be called upon to pilot an aircraft, but we are all the chief navigators of our own life. We are all able to fly. Spread your wings, point your nose in the direction of your wildest dreams, and throttle up. You are cleared for takeoff.