It has been a beautiful fall; one of the best for color in recent memory. We haven’t been able to appreciate it from the air as often as we would like, but those days devoted to finding the best corn mazes or that perfect red have been spectacular and truly appreciated.
It seems that all around trouble abounds. The economy is dismal. Fuel prices remain high. Groceries have become an investment. I have heard that moonshining made a comeback locally as a means of supplemental income but didn’t prosper because the liquor made in China was cheaper.
There has been sickness. Our friend Jimey used to keep the sky hot with his power parachute and Loehle Sport Parasol. Now he is too weak from battling cancer to consider flying. His memories are his comfort now. And Lord Have Mercy (Sorry Mr. Warog, Short Final is a column of my opinion and experience that I write in my own voice. To leave out part of that experience would make it dishonest and incomplete), there is our friend Helen. She has been the staunchest Front Porch Gang member for years. She doesn’t have a license, but she has supported her husband and shared his passion for more than 40 years. Not only has she been his rock, she has been ours. Now her mind and her health are gone, a victim of Alzheimer’s, a disease I have truly come to hate.
Even our own Keely has not been spared. At 13, I thought she had just lost her mind, as teenagers are prone to do. Instead she has fallen into that dark deep abyss of depression, a place I can’t protect her from nor can I follow. She has come to the place in her life where she is torn. She loves Aunt Deb and Uncle Henry, but she wants to know her mom. The intense emotions are often more than she can bear and have led to the hardest decision a parent can make. We are letting her go. As she has been raised at the airport, the Front Porch Gang is letting her go as well.
By now, my readers are probably thinking this is a gloom and doom column and not very enjoyable at all. But it’s not. It’s about perspective. As long as we are breathing, troubles will come and troubles will go. We handle them the best we can, and we trudge forward. Any one can prosper in times of plenty, but it is how we handle the hard times that define us as individuals.
Perspective is what hit me in the face recently when I was perusing some of the aviation forums. As members of the general aviation community, we know about hard times. Fuel prices, insurance costs, maintenance, and public perception are issues we deal with on a regular basis. Our community is small, and for it to survive we must stick together.
So it was with a sense of astonishment that I became involved on an internet posting on a very popular board that bashed a very strong part of this community. The original poster commented on a discourteous pilot in the pattern. We have all dealt with this at one time or another. We vent and feel better. Unfortunately, this vent turned into a ripple that determined that all pilots who fly a certain airplane are discourteous hot dogs. The ripple grew, urged on by someone I have come to respect over the years, until it was a wave that determined that it is the airplanes themselves that are dangerous. They should be banned.
Before long, the thread crossed over to several boards, where it was determined by an Internet mob that experimentals and those rogue pilots who build them are unsafe. Certain pattern entries, though legal, are only performed by hot dog military wannabees in experimentals, and they should be banned as well.
Heavenly day! I was getting alarmed. These folks were serious. Before too long, shiny Luscombes, you know those dangerous, squirrelly-landing contraptions, should be banned as well. When I suggested the logic of this conclusion, one zealous poster replied, “Oh no. We like the classics.”
Lord Have Mercy (sorry again, Mr. Warog)! Of all the troubles we face as human beings and pilots in this world, why do we want to bring down more upon ourselves? In the eyes of the public, we are one body. Pipers. Cessnas. Experimentals. Classics. When one goes down and attracts the attention of the media, we are all Piper Cubs. We are all suspect.
Perspective is what I get when the folks from the Burnt Mountain Center come to visit on the porch at JZP. The center is a local facility that helps mentally disabled individuals “achieve their highest level of functioning and independence for which they are capable.” When it’s warm, they like to come on clear, cool mornings. If it’s chilly, they come later in day. They come to enjoy the rockers and the airplanes.
They have no preconceived prejudices. They like all airplanes. They are just as happy to see a Citation land and disembark passengers as to watch my Old Man do snappy touch and goes. If we know they are there, we do our landings about midfield where they have a good view. Good or bad, all landings get applause.
A wonderful porch overlooking a beautiful view, a comfortable rocker, well-used, and airplanes in a clear, blue sky — who cares if they are experimentals or production-built, new or old, painted or polished? When troubles come, the perspective from the porch is a simple one.
I can see way ahead from there, and beyond the horizon, I see hope.
Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. Deb can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.