AirVenture tempts teachers with freebies

You don’t have to be a pilot or an aircraft mechanic to enjoy the largest general aviation gathering in North America. To prove that point, Build A Plane, in partnership with AirVenture, is offering teachers a very special perk for attending the festivities on Tuesday, July 28, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. For the fifth year, they are sponsoring Teacher’s Day to share information on how aviation can be used in the classroom to enhance STEM curriculum and engage students.

“Teacher’s Day is free and open to any teacher who’d like to attend,” says Build A Plane’s Executive Director Debbie Phillips. “We would like anyone who’s able to be a part of it.”

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Can aviation get its mojo back?

There was a time not so long ago when aviation was cool. It was hip. It was a celebrity in its own right.

Being photographed next to an airplane was a dream come true. Being one of the lucky few who got to actually fly from here to there, faster than any train or car could transport you, was treat that would be told and retold at water-coolers and cocktail parties and pretty much anywhere else people gathered. If you actually knew how to fly you were a virtual demi-god, celebrated by friends and neighbors. You were feted by family. Aviation was king.

It ain’t that way no more.

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Motivation, inspiration, and big ol’ dreams

I’ve just returned from a beautiful morning chat on my friend Ben’s front porch. Ben’s 87 years old. As a solid member of that group known as the greatest generation, he fills the bill well.

A southern boy born into hard work and low expectations, he went off to war as a young man in his teens. He found himself in the Pacific where he did things and saw things most of us would rather not know about.

But he soldiered on, did his duty, came home, went to college, and made quite a success of himself. In fact, he’s something of an institution in my neck of the woods.

Among Ben’s great contributions to the world is the love of flight a handful of middle-aged men share. [Read more...]

Welcome to the minority

When the topic of aviation comes up, it is almost a given that the conversation will come around to pilots. Even if the discussion isn’t about flying itself, the chatter still turns to pilots. Whether you’re interacting with an aviation-centric audience or a rabble that wants to shut down the local airport, the person most identified with the airport is a pilot.

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The context of a Mann

HiramMann2

On Friday, May 23, Hiram Mann was laid to rest. After 92 years his body had given all it had to give.

He was my friend. I’m sorry to say I was not at the ceremony with his family, his illustrious peers, and others who witnessed a U.S Air Force honor guard attending to his interment. Rather, I was a thousand miles away attending the wedding of my son. It was a wonderful wedding, but I must admit, Hiram was on my mind the whole time. He was not your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of guy.

If you ever find yourself searching for an example of how one man can make a profound and lasting difference in the world, consider Hiram’s life as proof.

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When in doubt, panic

Last week news organizations gleefully trumpeted the near collision of two airliners. Their coverage was spotty at best, with few, if any, first hand accounts from anyone with actual knowledge of the event, other than the description of a passenger.

Fortunately for editors and news producers who are too busy or disinterested to assign actual reporters to what is purported to be an earth-shattering story of epic proportions, one passenger seated aboard one of those aircraft sidelines was a writer, or a blogger at least. He wrote a first-person account of his experience that appears to have fueled the media frenzy over the near-event. He titled that expose, “Two Weeks Ago, I Almost Died in the Deadliest Plane Crash Ever.”

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Endings, beginnings, and opportunities

Regular readers of this column may notice a small change to the bio blurb that runs below. It’s shorter. The line about being the founder and president of the Polk Aviation Alliance has been removed, because although I remain the founder, I am no longer the president. I’ve resigned.

My local newspaper, which seems to be struggling to decide whether it wants to be more of a National Enquirer sort of sensationalist rag or a TMZ sort of sensationalist rag, ran my resignation as a front page story.

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Tell your story

Perhaps it has occurred to you. as it has to me, aviation attracts high achievers like a moth to a flame. Ours is not the domain of the weak or timid. Similarly it’s not an exclusive outpost for rich, old, white guys who split their time between the golf course, the yacht club, the airport, and pillaging the economy for their own personal gain. That’s the common perception of us. Wrong as it may be, that image persists.

Perhaps it’s time for us to correct that mischaracterization. [Read more...]

With an atonal buzz and a tin ear we toddle onward

There is a story that circulates in the music business that suggests an interesting parallel to general aviation. The story takes place in the late 1960s when Jimi Hendrix and his band arrived at the BBC studios to do a soundcheck in preparation for a performance to be recorded later in the day.

For those who are unfamiliar, a soundcheck is an abbreviated performance that allows the sound engineers to talk to the musicians, try each instrument in turn, try them all together, and find the various volumes and settings that allow the band to sound as they should for the performance.

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What do we want?

There’s a great scene in the movie, “Field of Dreams,” that sticks in my head. Kevin Costner’s character has taken the character played by James Earl Jones to a baseball game. Kevin plays an innocent who has an unlikely story to tell and a major favor to ask. Jones, on the other hand ,plays a legendary writer who no longer publishes and has become something of a recluse. Their relationship is tenuous at best, showing signs of strain from their very first meeting. It remains tense throughout their early interactions.

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