Discovering common ground

Airshow season has begun. At least it has in Florida, where the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo is in full bloom. The skies are blue, the winds are brisk, and the rain is at least a time zone away. All in all, the conditions are perfect for the central focus of this auspicious annual event – hangar flying.

I know, you thought Sun ‘n Fun was about airplanes, helicopters, homebuilts, warbirds, whiz-bang avionics or some other nonsense. Nope. It’s almost entirely about aviation enthusiasts getting together with other aviation enthusiasts, to talk about everybody’s favorite subject – aviation and how we deal with it!

On opening day I spent an absolutely stellar afternoon talking to pilots from Kentucky, New Hampshire, Florida, Arizona, Virginia, England, and who knows where else. They all had questions, and they all had stories. And yes, each and every conversation I was drawn into was entertaining, enlightening, and entirely worthwhile. Hopefully, the other participants came away with the same sense of connection that I felt. Based on the fist-full of business cards and hastily scribbled notes I collected, it would seem the benefit was mutual.

There is no more energizing way to start the day than to grab a jolt of caffeine in your favorite form, wander aimlessly among the tied-down dream machines, and jabber away the morning with new friends as the dew dries on the grassy areas skirting the ramps and taxiways. I am constantly surprised at the depth of knowledge held by the people I meet, their ability to grab my attention with a story, and the amazingly similar situations we all encounter as we go about our life as aviation nuts. In some cases I can share a pertinent piece of advice that just might make their hurdles a bit easier to deal with when they get home. More often, they have some insight to share with me that I file away for future use. The important thing is that we almost always find common ground and a willingness to help each other find solutions to the vexing issues facing us.

And that’s what I love about airshow season — aside from the airplanes, helicopters, homebuilts, warbirds, and whiz-bang avionics, of course.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at

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