What keeps GA going

As I write this I am preparing mentally and physically for my annual excursion to Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture. Since 1970 I’ve missed only three or four of these grand aviation extravaganzas. I haven’t been able to attend the entire gathering every year, but for the vast majority of those years I’ve been on hand from day one.

Recently I did a forum at the Northwest EAA Fly-in at Arlington, Wash. As I was setting up my projector I overheard some folks sitting close by talking about the event they were attending and going to Oshkosh.

One fellow remarked that he has attended lots of aviation events, but still hasn’t made it to the big show. “I can’t make it this year,” he remarked. “I’m sure hoping for the 2006 show.”

The other fellow said he was in the same boat. He kept on dreaming that things would work out so he could get to the fly-in at Oshkosh, but something kept getting in the way.

The two continued talking about Oshkosh — what they had read about it, what others had told them about the event and what they wanted to see. Both were probably in their mid- to late-60s (an age that seems younger and younger to me these days) and they both indicated that getting to Oshkosh was their ultimate dream and desire.

One fellow said he wanted to see some of the sport planes because he could see the day in the not too distant future that he might need to move into that realm of aviation. Getting to see the wide variety of planes in that category would give him some help in making a decision which way to turn, he indicated.

The second fellow said that was interesting to him, but he was more interested in watching the high end of the industry. “There are so many single engine planes that are pressurized and get lots of speed that I want to check out,” he exclaimed. “I’ve got kids and grandkids all over the country and my idea of retirement fun is to be able to get into a hot plane and scoot across the country to visit them.”

These guys made my day!

They weren’t talking about losing their medicals and being grounded, except to a limited degree. They weren’t thinking in terms of retirement and sitting in the shade beside the river and fishing. These guys didn’t have any thought in their minds except continuing to enjoy general aviation even though their interests were as varied as they could possibly be.

That’s what keeps general aviation going from year to year. These fellows are optimists. They are the ones who dream of flight and they are the ones who encourage the designers and manufacturers to continue developing new models. Guys like these are the ones who bring their kids and grandkids to the shows and show them why they love aviation and, even more, why flying can be so positive for their own lives.

Another guy I met at the show was Jules Bresnick, someone I’ve known for years. Jules has had more health problems than I would wish on to any two people, but he’s at the shows all the time and he keeps working to regain his medical. “I think I’ve got everything in line,” he told me at Arlington. “Everyone in the region says I should be able to get my medical back and the papers are sitting in the FAA’s top office right now,” he told me with pride and optimism.

I hope he gets that medical back. He says the docs tell him his health is good and his body is in good shape. He’s another vision of optimism and enthusiasm for aviation. He’s a great proponent for general aviation.

This afternoon I had lunch with a fellow who has been doing our company’s accounting work for 25 years or more. “I think I would like to learn to fly,” he said during lunch. “What do you think?”

I told him to go for it. He’s not too old (he said he will be 62 shortly). He’s in good health. For years he has taken boats of all sizes and types from Alaska to Mexico. He has a captain’s certificate qualifying him.

He would be a good pilot and he has done a lot of flying with others, going to Alaska and flying around that state. “Would it be hard for me to learn to fly a floatplane?” he wondered. I pointed out that with his knowledge of the water from his years of boating he would probably have an easier time than most because of his ability to read the water better.

He’s going to think about it some more, but the interest is definitely there!

That’s one more optimist facing aviation. He offers another chance for general aviation to gain an advocate.

I’m ready to face the throngs at Oshkosh now and share my experiences and listen to all the stories and hear the excitement at this year’s event.

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