Ho, ho, ho, let’s go

Here’s a pertinent and timely question for you to ponder. What does general aviation have in common with the Christmas shopping season? The answer is unfortunately both depressing and obvious — Nothing.

Let’s set about changing that. You and me. Right now. Today.

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The right tool for the right task

In a closet at my grandfather’s house, there is a toolbox. It’s a long, narrow rectangular thing, not at all like a toolbox you might find in the local home improvement store today. It’s made of wood with strong, steel hinges and an equally robust hasp, all of which have been worn by time.

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Progress comes at a cost

At this very moment there is a team of highly skilled professionals who are out of sight and largely out of mind, yet they have been tasked with solving an almost unimaginably difficult puzzle. They work for the NTSB and their charge is to figure out exactly what went wrong last week aboard SpaceShipTwo, the private sector launch system being developed by Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, and a collection of truly gifted engineers, technologists, craftsmen, and pilots.

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What have you done for me lately?

Like it or not, aviation enthusiasts are often classified by non-aviation enthusiasts as “those people.” As a card carrying member of the “those people” fan club, I’m often interested in how we’re perceived and routinely blamed for the ills of society by those who don’t understand us. In general, we’re neither loved or admired. Frequently we’re assumed to be outrageously wealthy, aloof, and selfish.

Rather than blame those who blame us, I did a little daydreaming about how this relationship came to be so dysfunctional. I was also curious how we might go about reversing the trend. Given enough time I’m sure I could have come up with a solution too, but a handful of proactive pilots in Paso Robles, California, beat me to it.

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The story that wasn’t a story

Last week the U.S. and the world missed a story that was right there, front and center for all to see. But we missed it. Not a word was spoken about a story that should have been news, but was instead, virtually invisible in the public consciousness.

Granted, the ebola scare has most people distracted from their normal day-to-day thoughts. Who can focus on deciding between going with cable or switching to satellite service when the specter of imminent doom is right there on the front page of your newspaper?

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Sing a happy song

Nobody who is seriously involved in aviation is unaware of the concern that student pilot starts are down and student pilot completions are down. At the same time, aviation has become a critical part of the global economy.

Ideas abound for how the industry might combat this trend and hopefully reverse it. You may have one yourself. That’s great. If even a small percentage of those ideas work, fantastic. Progress is progress.

Have you heard of the Flying Musicians Association?

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Internationally awesome

Last week I spent some time in Washington D.C. I had business in the area, but like most of us, when I get in the vicinity of the Mall, the monuments, and the Capital building, I find myself wanting to browse the wares of our country. There is art to peruse and documents to consider. Inventions large and small are collected there, as are homages to the achievements of average men and women who became heroic leaders through word and deed. And there are aircraft. Spacecraft, too.

The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum is one of the best visited museums on the planet. A quick glance around the main room can remove any mystery for why that might be.

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Leaders, followers, and picking your mission

Audry and Paul Poberezny

Like it or not, most of us are followers. That’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing. It’s just a thing. A description of the way things are. A stand-alone fact. Most of us follow someone else, a political office holder, an employer, a manager, a spouse.

Among us there are leaders, but they are few. I’m talking about real leaders, not people with a title and their name in gold leaf on a door. Real leaders are rare. Paul Poberezny was a leader. He founded the Experimental Aircraft Association in the basement of his home. It would be hard to find less impressive surroundings. Yet the humble address and the cramped workspace wasn’t the point. Paul had a message to share, a belief that he didn’t just espouse, he lived. Paul got a crazy idea in his head that people could, and maybe even should, build their own aircraft and fly them.

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