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The lessons of air combat – Learnt finally

How often in life does one get a revelation?

Being ushered into the month of December which comes just after my birthday, brings me into contemplation for the new year ahead.

As it has been the case for the past few years, December usually is accompanied by a bout of flu and more, a time of forced rest. Of having to lie in bed a little more, and let go of the pressing matters which seem to never end.

I had a realisation of sorts. Something brewing for some time but which never came to boiling point. Now that it has come, i was struck by the commonality of it all. The same common pattern of behaviour that has governed my life.

In Astrology, they say that when we are born, or rather reborn, our souls returned back to earth passing through the space of stars. The stars’ positions map out our little idiosyncracies and then fixes our lessons destined to be learnt in the current life through a pattern of situations and reactions. These life lessons take place throughout our lives – they never stop until we learn them.

In fact, we might not even have completed our lessons well enough when we die. If the lessons were not learnt we come back to relearn the same lessons again, in a different time and place, in a different manner but with the necessary refinements to the syllabus to suit the day and age.

Throughout many of the past lives i probably had. I am convinced that i might have been a true blue fighter pilot at least once and obviously shot down due to a mistake and got “killed in action” or “missing in action”.

Since a very young age, i had been fascinated by planes. Especially military fighter planes. I stayed near Changi Airbase when i was a kid. My dad had taken a wrong turn once in trying to get us to the beach. The wrong turn brought me to the fence that was at a corner of an airbase – just meters from fighter aircraft.

I must have been 2 or 3 years old or even younger then but the feeling was as if i had come home. The kind of back-to-base feeling of familiarity.

The love for fighter aircraft was ignited after that. It became an obsession. The be all and end all.

I used to rush into open ground to catch a view of any fighter plane that was going to pass over. I became so adept at doing that could recognise even the growl of some of the different planes.

I also recall that my reward for doing well in school was being brought to the nov/dec book fairs to choose one or two illustrated books on combat aircraft which i would read over and over again over the holidays and whenever i had the spare time.

The desire to become a fighter pilot naturally arose. Though it was not pleasant all the time. I remember being ill once with a very high fever. I had woke up with a strange but surreal and vivid dream. I was very shaken and terrified. The dream put me in the cockpit of an aircraft, and i was desperately trying to evade an enemy missile that was homing up my tailpipe.

As you will expect, even now “Dogfights” on the History Channel HD brings my adrenaline to a rush and amazes me.

Life had its way of thwarting dreams. I grew up to be severely myopic. Probably from staring at the fighter planes in the books too closely. Nearing a thousand degrees for each eye, i was close to being blind. In fact i could not read beyond maybe 10cm from my eyes. Everything else beyond that distance fell into a mushy nebulous blur.

In those days, there was no surgery to correct short-sightedness. Surgery to correct myopia would take many more years to appear. I also had a fear of heights. Strange.

The dreams of becoming a pilot were shattered. Let alone a fighter pilot. [These days, kids with myopia have a second chance to become a pilot due to the availability of lasik to correct the defect.]

I ended up becoming a lawyer. I forgot the vision of the chase in the cockpit.

In the years that followed from childhood, there have been hurdles and trials and tribulations. Having survived them, i came to view that i have surmounted them successfully and wisely.

I did have my fair share of errors. Being left to play alone when young, I would focus and concentrate on a certain task. Ignoring almost everything else. This became a habit. Not willing to do many things simultaneously. Life however, forced me to do so.

The problem with my focus and concentration is that my vision becomes narrow and I start losing my peripheral vision. This was also the problem that I faced with myopia. My glasses were thick, so they had to be small to reduce the overall thickness and weight of the concave lens. As a result, i lost peripheral vision.

Losing peripheral vision made me clumsy. I have had my fair share of crashing into bookshelves and whatever that had my height, was unfortunate enough to be beside me, and when my mind was elsewhere.

I went for lasik almost two years back and the lasik surgery corrected all of that.

I had thought “Now my peripheral vision has finally been returned to me”.

Or was it? ūüôā

I recall during my biking and driving lessons, I often failed to check the blind spot. Failing to check blind spots was a dangerous affair and it could very well have resulted in death on the road. I managed to correct this bad habit after a few close shaves after obtaining my licence.

I had recently found out that blind spots do not occur just on the road. They occur in real life.

When one is obsessed or fixated by something, one would not see danger approaching from the corners and edges of field of vision. What’s more if it is a blind spot.

In a dogfight, unless the pilot bothers to consciously take his eyes off the target at times to look the sides as well as his “six”, whatever danger that is not in the field of vision has the potential to do untold damage.

In a pair of warplanes, that would be a wingleader and a wingman. I have always been attracted to such a concept of responsibilities. That the wingman’s job is to ensure that the wingleader stays safe, that his “six” is clear of enemy fighters as he proceeds to hunt down the enemy.

Naturally, of course there are other tactics used in air combat, which include placing sets of planes miles apart one after another so that each set is in position to watch the “six” of the earlier set. This concept, however, sets out the very basic relationship between a wingleader and a wingman. An analogy most appropriate as many of us live with the benefit of the support of a partner.

In my life, I would be extremely irritated by people telling me “hey you missed this out”, “hey you missed that out” especially if it came from someone close. My reasoning was: If it was so obvious to you, you could have stepped in to cover my blind spot instead of letting me err then tell me thereafter when the mistake has been made and damage done.

This mentality was that of an arrogant wingleader, focused on doing the job but consistently dependent on his wingman to protect him from HIS errors. Errors in not checking the rear view mirrors. Not checking the blind spots. Not watching his “six” [rear].

The wingman may be in position to watch the wingleader’s six but inevitably he had to watch his own “six” as well as the wingman would not have a wingman.

At age 35, i recently realised that i was having my life lessons repeated. I was repeating them because i wasn’t learning from my experiences.

On my part, the intense desire to realise an objective singlemindedly is part of my character. Throwing all other considerations behind in doing so was also part of the deal. I realised that i tended to rely on people who are beside me to warn me of danger. And even when they warned, I might not be actually listening. ūüė¶

This is where lies the problem. When you finally realise on hindsight what you should have never done which causes the most regret and pain. Because by the time you realise, the damage has been done.

It was clear in this life, i am getting shot at from my blind spot, my “six” countless times. This time round though the mistakes were made and discovered in one life [i.e. not fatal] they are no less painful.

I do not know how many times I have failed to check my blind spots in this life or other past lives.

I might have paid dearly and fatally repeatedly for not checking my blind spots.

I might have been given this life to re-learn the lesson in a less fatal setting.

As such, I would endeavour to learn the lesson as best i can.

I acknowledge that it is my responsibility to check my “six”.

Nevertheless I hope that if my wingman would continue to be patient and warn me.

The probability of getting hurt from avoidable mistakes would then be far less.

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December 4, 2008 - Posted by | Life

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