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The "open road" is not paved with asphalt. In fact, it is not paved at all. It is instead the open sky, the air, and when man learned to fly, for the first time man learned what the open road really was.
It isn't merely speed. It is instead the concept of freedom of navigation. The open road is more akin to the open ocean than to any other form of earthbound travel. We fly because it provides a unique opportunity to go in whatever direction we desire and to go from one point to the other point in the straightest direct line possible.
Automobile commercials on television constantly try to portray their car or truck as the "ultimate freedom machine," frequently showing man-made barriers being blown open in exciting ways, unleashing the freedom to just go now! These commercials are artificial contrivances, designed to show the illusion of freedom. The truth is that man and nature erect great barriers to true freedom. You cannot drive over large bodies of water without a bridge, and you cannot surmount mountains without pathways being provided.
On the other hand, airplanes can conquer mountains and large lakes with ease. The reason why air travel flourishes in America is because the size of the American continent invites the kind of freedom of navigation inherent in air travel. Even if we paid the huge costs to build a high speed interstate rail system, the speed provided would remain a pitiful fraction of even modest airplanes. Moreover, one would be bound to the rails, much tighter than even the network of roads bind autos to narrow pathways of conveyance. Rail and commercial air travel offer the same constraints to individual choice. Your choice ends when you choose to walk onboard and only resumes when you choose to walk off once you get to destination!
On the other hand, piloting your own airplane allows one to take off, and go in precisely the direction chosen, at speeds limited more by individual financial constraints than by anything erected by society. Yes, there are so-called restricted airspaces, and Washington DC now features the largest one by far. But, the vast majority of America can be traversed without limits, and whether one can afford a modest Cessna Skyhawk or a more expensive Cessna Citation, the concept remains exactly the same. With yourself at the controls, you go where you want to go, and get there how you wish to get there!
Barring temporary barriers made by weather, or permanent tiny airspace restrictions, the truth is that we fly because we yearn for freedom. It is no mere happenstance that allegories abound linking flight with freedom. Such narratives conceptualize people immediately leaping to flight to celebrate their release from the shackles of control. Who needs a drink to "give you wings," when the reality exists already!
Even when the rare stretch of open pavement reveals itself, one is still bound by speed limits, speed traps, and stop lights! Cars can only go so fast before they become dangerous, and long ago airplanes far surpassed such levels of constraint. Today, the limit on aerial speed is a complex formula of cost over annual income, with one's wallet being the truest limitation of speed in the air! In short, the limits are defined only by one's individual talents and desires.
In the United States, a nation founded on the principle of individual human liberty, flight is the embodiment of practicing that freedom to go where we want, when we want. And that is why we fly!
-- Ken Stallings
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