An Invitation To Fly

From someone who once stood in your shoes.

Gregg Maryniak flying memories
Mementos of an early pursuit of flight.Courtesy Gregg Maryniak

Because you are reading this special issue of Flying, you’re probably considering taking flying lessons. As someone who has been in your shoes, permit me to give you an invitation… and a warning.

Fifty years ago, Flying gave me an invitation that completely changed my life.

On a September evening at a drugstore newsstand after my weekly music lesson in Roselle, Illinois, I encountered Flying’s special publication, Invitation to Flying 1970. I doubt that anyone could have predicted the impact this journal would have on the rest of my life.

If magazines suffered wear from being read, this one would have been obliterated from use within a week. I practically memorized James Gilbert’s description of his early student training in a biplane in England. I was captivated by George Atwell’s story of taking a skeptical business colleague on an IFR trip from Westchester County, New York, to Buffalo and opening his mind to general aviation.

But what really resonated with me was Sally Kur’s portrayal of her experience as a student pilot in Cincinnati, leading to her first solo. With great honestly, she described her initial apprehension and her joy and excitement in a piece entitled “From Fright to Fun: How a Panic-Stricken Kid Learned To Fly.” Though I was a 15-year-old from a family of modest means, Invitation to Flying inflamed my interest and made me believe becoming a pilot was within the realm of possibility. To be fair to Flying, editor Robert B. Parke led off the editorial content with a piece entitled “Fair Warning,” which began, “Before you go too far, we think it’s only fair to tell you that this publication is an out-and-out bamboozle.” But Mr. Parkes’ warning was too little, too late.

I became one of those kids who worked all week to earn an hour of dual instruction and rode his bicycle to the airport because he was too young to get a driver’s license.

Gregg Maryniak Logbook
The author's logbook tells stories from a life of flying.Courtesy Gregg Maryniak

One unintended consequence of soloing at 16 and getting a license at 17 is that you discover you can take on seemingly impossible goals—and prevail. Within a few months of becoming a private pilot, I had dropped out of high school to attend college. Though flying was not my professional goal, it has always been a core part of my being. Flying led me to amazing adventures that have included helping to find ice on the moon’s poles, teaching orbital mechanics to airline pilots with Buzz Aldrin (who had an interesting 50th anniversary in 2019), lecturing with Neil Armstrong, and helping Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik, make a solo flight from New York to Paris in a modern light plane. The generous mentors and friends I have met through the love of flying are too numerous to recount in this note.

I’ve come to realize that almost every great endeavor is the result of a sincere invitation. “Join our company,” “Help our cause,” or “Marry me” are examples of invitations that have been turning points in many lives. I’ve shared Flying’s invitation to flying with hundreds of people over the years. Like ripples on a pond that reflect back and forth and interact with each other, these invitations often had profound and surprising impact on both the offerer and the invitee. For example, one led to the creation of the XPrize, which helped trigger the modern commercial-spaceflight revolution.

The invitation to learn to fly turned out to be an invitation to a lifetime of adventure, learning, and the companionship of some of the most interesting people on the planet. I’m glad to see that Flying continues to invite and inspire—and, if necessary, bamboozle—new generations of pilots.

Be warned that learning to fly will undoubtedly change your life. But I also offer you a sincere and heartfelt personal invitation to join the worldwide community of pilots. On behalf of your future aviation brothers and sisters, welcome to the adventure of a lifetime.

Join us!


This story appeared in the Learn to Fly Special Issue of Flying Magazine