Golden opportunities and bitter pills

Participating in politics is, in essence, an exercise in dealing with people. The goal is to establish a method of governing or providing management services. But in the end it all comes down to developing and utilizing your ability to talk to, listen to, and work with a staggeringly diverse group of people.

Like most businessmen, I was involved in politics of a sort long before I held political office. [Read more...]

Flying the Curtiss Pusher

The twin airfoil canard out front looks like a box kite, one of the prominent building materials is bamboo, and there was never a Pilot’s Operating Handbook of any kind produced for the airplane. However, when Kermit Weeks lines the Curtiss Pusher up on a 5,000-foot grass strip to take his first hop, heads turn and attention is being paid. It’s not every day you see an airplane from the earliest days of powered flight take to the air.

The airplane arrived at its new home at Fantasy of Flight in central Florida just recently to join Weeks’ ever-growing aircraft collection. Weeks and his crew of top-flight mechanics wasted little time assembling it and getting it ready to fly.

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Inherently international

It started with Louis Bleriot in 1909. Bleriot, who was essentially an engineer and an auto parts manufacturer, had been interested in aviation for nearly a decade. His fascination with flight nagged at him until he designed his own airplane, built it, and climbed into the pilot’s seat. Of course he didn’t do all this work personally. But he was a major player in the early days of aviation, and so we owe him a great debt of gratitude for several of his accomplishments. Louis was a trailblazer, as we all can be, given the opportunity and the drive.

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The potential of potential

Believe it or not, even the most complex things can ultimately be broken down to a remarkably simple origin. Take your house, for example. While it may seem somewhat ordinary to you, a person who lived in an earlier time would be fascinated by the almost magical qualities of the amenities and gadgets you live with so casually.

It’s true. Imagine for a moment that you could invite a great thinker, tinkerer, and inventor like Benjamin Franklin into your home. You wouldn’t even have to clean the place up to impress him.

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The lure of the $10 hamburger

No, I did not leave a zero off in the title to this piece. Although general aviators have long joked about the lure of the $100 hamburger, I think it is time we downsized, right-sized, and economized our way into a larger population. So I recommend the $10 hamburger. It’s available for a tenth the price, but has the potential to pack quite a wallop.

Perhaps some context is in order.

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General aviation is awesome

Hurricane Sandy made a mess of the northeast last week. More than 20 states were lambasted by wind and rain, while snow piled up in West Virginia. From Georgia to Maine, weather that nobody was happy to see came their way anyhow. There will be more to come, too. There always is. It comes year after year. Somebody finds themselves in the crosshairs. It’s just a matter of time before some meteorological mayhem finds you. Rest assured, your turn will come.

In the aftermath of these storms, floods, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes, or any other natural calamity that might befall some corner of the world, my television screen becomes rich with aerial photography showing us just how bad the damage really is. Seeing it from the ground is bad enough, but seeing it from the air – well now we have scope and context. The emotional argument is much more powerful given aerial photography. So naturally, photographers from all sorts of media outlets launch to the skies as soon as possible after a natural disaster occurs. It’s news, after all.

What few who view those shots ever think of is, “How did they get that video from above the rim of the volcano?” Last week as we saw images of the Jersey shore in disarray, how many people watching stopped to think, “Thank goodness general aviation is healthy enough to give us the opportunity to get up in the air quickly and see the damage from a better vantage point?”

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Don’t reinvent the wheel

In the great pantheon of mottos there may be none more pertinent than this: Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s short. It’s pithy. It’s easy to remember. Maybe best of all, it’s true. So with that in mind, I will make this suggestion: If you are a fan of general aviation, if you believe human beings benefit from the pursuit of big dreams, and if you wish you could do something to change the world — you can.

In fact, it’s fairly easy to do all of those things. At least, it’s easy to be part of a bigger machine that is doing those things. [Read more...]

Happenstance — Go get some

I was having lunch last week with a woman who works in the tourism industry. Here in Florida, tourism is a big deal, and so we have folks in the private sector, and the public sector, who are dedicated to making sure travelers know there is plenty to do when they get here.

The list of awesome touristy things to do in the Sunshine State is almost limitless. Fortunately for those of us who are interested in things that fly, our spectacular weather and stunningly diverse offering of aviation centric opportunities has turned Florida into something of an aviation destination for people from all over the planet.

I like that. In fact, it’s the primary reason that I live here.

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Join the club

The subject of flying clubs and their relative merit has taken up space in this column before. I’m a believer. The idea of spreading the cost of ownership across eight or 10 or 12 partners in a flying club makes sense. And that’s to say nothing of the social aspects that can be so beneficial in a club atmosphere. The opportunity to have access to multiple club airplanes in exchange for a small investment is appealing, too. In short, clubs have a lot to offer the general aviation pilot.

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The race to euthanasia

I received an email over the weekend that stunned me. I don’t use that term lightly, either. I was truly shocked. The opening sentence read, “The fact is GA is just about done for.”

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