The magic number is 30 — for now

Benefactor James Ray at the grand opening of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy in 2011.

The number of pilots in the United States is decreasing. Pretty much anyone who flies is aware of this unfortunate fact. Consider the irony: Although aviation is more ubiquitous than ever and the overall population of the nation is increasing, the number of us who have a valid pilot’s certificate is actually diminishing.

In my little corner of the world, and by corner of the world I mean, this big ol’ sandbar that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, there is a program intended to reverse that trend. I’m particulary enamored of and tremendously excited about the mission they’ve set themselves on, as well as the success they’re having.

Yes, actual success. They really are making a profound difference that extends well past the cockpit. [Read more…]

Do something

Photo courtesy AOPA

Frederick, Maryland, has an amenity often missing in my home town: Sidewalks.

Where I live they’re spotty at best. Hence, it’s common for walkers to get into a gasoline powered vehicle which they drive to a place where they can walk without undue risk of being hit by a car, or a truck, or perhaps finding a territorial alligator in their path. [Read more…]

Limiting our freedom of speech

Photo courtesy Sporty's

The founders of this great nation — I refer to the United States of America, of course — did an amazing thing when they debated and passed a Bill of Rights. These 10 amendments to a Constitution so new the ink was still wet on the page set out specific areas of freedom for individuals and, more importantly, limits for government, that continue to guide us today. First among those amendments is the freedom of speech.

What a remarkable idea. Especially when compared and contrasted with other nations of that period.

In the U.S., an individual can speak their mind. You can say what you wish, whether it’s a cogent thought or an idiotic ramble. If you feel it, you may say it. And this freedom extends beyond the citizenry of our nation. It falls to anyone who stands within our borders. Speak freely, we say. Discuss. Debate. Explore the ramblings of your mind at will.

Of course, there are limits. [Read more…]

Poking around perception, fear, and illusive rewards

Last night I spent the evening walking and talking with a young man from my neighborhood. He’s out of high school but hasn’t begun taking classes that would lead to a higher level of certification. He’s got a job, but it’s menial, low-paying, and often frustrates him. To his credit he wants to go to college, but he has no idea how to go about it.

In essence, he’s not much different than a lot of other young men and women who live near me. He’s probably not much different than those who live near you, either.

During our discussion, I suggested he might consider finding a new job. Something that required a little more skill, carried a bit of responsibility with it, and would pay better. At the very least that would make paying for college easier.

As it happens, there is an opening for a line-boy at a nearby airport. I mentioned this to him and was truly surprised to see how negatively he reacted to the idea. [Read more…]

A little solidarity can go a long way

radar

When you get right down to it, politics are not really about Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, Socialists and Capitalists. It’s about people. Individual people and how they interact with other individual people, and how those people plan, debate, and ultimately work together as their numbers grow into an ever larger group.

The study of politics can be as simple and basic as a discussion about how people interact in groups. There are politics at play between husbands and wives. Politics are in the mix when employers deal with employees, and vice versa. [Read more…]

General aviation: Get evangelical about it

First ride

General aviation — get evangelical about it.

This may seem unlikely, even inconceivable to some, but I have been fortunate enough to make a career out of being excited. It’s a pretty good career, too.

I spend the bulk of every day doing something I really love to do. I work with people I’m glad to be interacting with, and I get to write about, talk about, demonstrate, and actually do the things I am enthused to share with others.

To be honest, anyone could do it. Yet, few do. I wonder why. [Read more…]

Nostalgia for your coffee table

BOAC_Nr_218

There was a time when aviation was an almost impossible dream. Millions, no, billions of people around the world were aware of the airplane, but most didn’t have the means to experience flight for themselves. That was the way of the world between 1945 and 1975.

Then something miraculous happened. The Boeing 747 became ubiquitous in the commercial market, lowering prices, expanding opportunity, and truly making air-travel something the average man or woman could afford at long last.

Everything was different from that point on. Yet, there was a time before. A time that is nearly forgotten now. A golden hour for commercial aviation. [Read more…]

General aviation goes clubbing

For some time now I’ve been singing the praises of the flying club. Not any particular flying club, mind you — although there are some excellent examples out there — just flying clubs in general. They work. ‘Nuff said.

Don’t believe me? Read on. [Read more…]

Have you ever considered teaching?

You may have heard somewhere that a pilot shortage is looming. Personally, I believe that rumor to be true. I also believe there will be challenges in finding qualified people to fill skilled positions as aircraft mechanics, engineers, designers, administrators, and maybe even line personnel. The future is a blank slate. However, we can affect it if we choose to. [Read more…]

Do unto others, and all that sort of thing

Poster

You know the drill. The neighbors complain about the airport because it’s populated entirely by spoiled, rich white guys who get their kicks by flying low over the neighborhood and making lots of noise.

We can disagree, we can explain, we can put thousands of hours of effort into going door to door to tell our story – but none of that will change the general public’s disdain for the local general aviation airport. We’re the pariah of the municipality. Noisy, expensive, and very nearly useless.

Or at least that’s how most of our neighbors see us. [Read more…]