Anachronism or genius?

Flying_boat_Benoist

The world of 100 years ago was quite different than the one we inhabit today. There was no central heat or air-conditioning back then. Private dwellings and places of business were drafty and cold, or insufferably hot, depending on the season. Distances were covered on foot, or on horseback, or in a wagon that bumped along a dirt road with all the grace and poise of a bag of rocks falling down a stairwell. Electricity was scarce at best.

So with all that going against it, why is the past so intriguing? Maybe because it’s known – or at least partially known, and yet it’s still up for discussion. What happened is generally a given. But why it happened, or how it happened is often as much a mystery to us as it was to the bystanders of the day.

Case in point: I give you the Benoist flying boat that established the first scheduled commercial air route in the world. The year was 1914, the place was Tampa Bay, Florida. And the pilot was Tony Jannus, a daredevil of a man who flew airplanes when airplanes were barely understood. [Read more…]

One becomes two, then becomes a movement

Camp 1

While there are plenty of reasons to hang your head and lament the difficulty of making a difference in your community, it is not impossible to have a positive effect. Hard? You betcha. Impossible? Not hardly.

There is reason for real hope even when the hill seems unimaginably steep and the burden feels too heavy to carry one more step because, in all honesty, one person can do a lot. That’s especially true if they employ the massive, almost unstoppable power of the multiplier effect.

Let me give you an example. [Read more…]

The secret is out — finally

sunnfunlogo

Shhhh. I’m going to trust you to keep this to yourself. It’s a secret. It has been for years. Yet, I’m going to tell you the truth. Here. Now. Only a few sentences hence.

Now, if I’m going to be completely honest, I have to admit the paragraph you just read is hyperbole. I’ve used a writer’s trick to get you reading, and hopefully keep you reading. Exaggeration is my tool of choice. By elevating something that’s largely unknown to the status of a well-kept secret, I’ve grabbed your attention a little more forcefully than I might have done if I chose more passive words, or a less impassioned approach. Good.

What I have to share is important. It truly is. For while it might not really be a closely held secret that’s been shielded from the wider public, it is information that’s unknown in the wider world and directly affects the future of general aviation in a very real way.

You’re still with me, right? Excellent.

In only a matter of weeks the second largest aviation-related event in North America will take place in my back yard. It’s called SUN ‘n FUN and it’s been one of the highlights of my year for more than two decades. You’ve probably heard of it too. Hopefully, you’ve been there to experience it for yourself. It is, in a word, amazing. [Read more…]

New friends, old friends, and cherished memories

Reimagined 152 in flight

Later this week I’ll be flying from Lakeland, Florida to Lowcountry Regional Airport in South Carolina. I’m flying there in a shiny, nearly new, totally rebuilt Cessna 152.

As hard as it may be to believe, I’ll be meeting a new friend who will be flying an almost identical airplane in from the frozen north. I suppose we’ll hang out for a bit, grab a bite to eat, and maybe even stay overnight in this quaint southern town. Then we’ll fly home again.

The only twist is that I’ll be flying home in the airplane he flew down and he’ll be flying north in the one I flew up from Florida. The whole trip is something of a hand-off. A swap. [Read more…]

Baby, it’s cold outside

snowplanes

If you live in the eastern half of the United States, you may have noticed that nature has turned a bit nippy lately. Even in the deep south they’ve felt the brisk embrace of winter’s furious freeze. There’s no getting around it. It’s some kind of cold out there, and frankly, I don’t care for it. [Read more…]

Riding out of town on a rail

Jamie at train station

The plan was simple: I was going to hop into the trusty Cessna 152, point it to the north, and fly for just shy of 1,000 miles into the wintery wonderland known as Maryland. That was what I said I was going to do anyway.

What I actually did was drive less than two miles to the Amtrak station, get on board the Silver Meteor and ride in 19th Century splendor right into downtown Washington D.C. [Read more…]

Lure them with pancakes, hook them with adventure

The Sonex Waiex in flight.

EAA Chapter 1067 is based in Naples, Florida. There are worse places to be in February, I can tell you. But there are few better.

What attracted me is what attracts so many to the back corner of the T-hangars at Naples, directly across from the shade hangars, right along the fence line where EAA 1067 resides. It was pancakes. Well, not just pancakes. The chapter’s monthly pancake breakfast is actually made up of pancakes and sausage with a biscuit, coffee, juice, and some of the best company you could ever hope to share.

I certainly had a good time. Good enough that I’m inclined to go back. [Read more…]

If it’s about who you know…

BobHooverportraitByJimKoepnick 2

When I was a young man headed out into the world, trying to make a success of myself, there was an expression I heard over and over again: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The subtext was clear. No matter how smart or capable or driven you might be, it would not be possible to become a true success unless someone who was already established took your hand and guided you through the gates of what might best be described as a members only club. [Read more…]

Airshow etiquette: Look, but don’t touch

Once, when I was a teenager manning the pumps at a full service gas station, a gentleman rolled up in a gorgeous Rolls Royce. He claimed it had previously belonged to the velvety-voiced crooner Nat “King” Cole.

You can imagine my surprise when he climbed out and encouraged me to take a seat behind the wheel. [Read more…]