Recently a series of cold fronts have marched down from the region of the north pole, bringing biting winds, frigid temperatures, and enough ice to supply a wet bar that’s serving Jackie Gleason, Foster Brooks, and Dean Martin simultaneously. If you’re into ice fishing, snow machine races, or the latest cutting-edge snowshoe designs, the weather is ideal. If you’re a general aviation nut, however, it’s somewhat less conducive to getting out and putting some distance between your tires and terra firma. And if you’re a seaplane enthusiast, you’re pretty much out of luck for the moment. [Read more…]
Malcom Gladwell, the well known author who possesses both an almost cartoonishly frizzy hair-style and a razor sharp mind, first came to my attention with his blockbuster hit “The Tipping Point.” Released in 2002, Amazon still ranks it high on its best sellers ranking. It held down the position of 533 on that literary hit parade as this week opened, nearly 13 years after its initial publication.
I wish my books sold as well.
In The Tipping Point, Gladwell observes that a magic moment exists in the life of a product or service that suddenly catapults it to the top of the sales charts. There are a variety of reasons for this phenomenon taking place, but in each of the cases he studies, there is a moment, an incident, an occurrence that causes an otherwise pedestrian object to become the instant darling of the consumer.
In short, masses of people suddenly become convinced they must have that product. They must subscribe to that service. Not one more day will pass without that thing, whatever it is, being in their home, their car, or on their feet. The possession of it becomes a social imperative. In other words, the nation cries as one, “I must have it,” and so they buy.
Not for nuthin’, as my New York area friends might say, but have you seen the price of avgas lately?
As I sit down to write this morning the thermometer is nudging its way toward 80°. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the breeze is slight enough to be refreshing without mussing even the most carefully coiffed hairstyle. Welcome to central Florida. This is winter at its finest.
I mention this meteorological trivia because at this exact moment it is well below freezing in Chicago, Cincinnati is frigid, New York is brisk, and I’m not even going to mention the forecast for Minneapolis/St. Paul. It’s too cold for a resident of the Sunshine State to ponder. All of which adds up to very little general aviation activity happening in the northern climes, while an abundance of snowbirds and locals find a way to get into the air today down south.
General aviation activity is so prevalent here during this otherwise inclement time of the year, in only a matter of days the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo will get underway in Sebring, Florida.
A few decades ago, I became very interested in electronics. The home computer was just beginning to look like a viable product and it occurred to me that devices that used to be purely mechanical were rapidly transitioning to become computerized. Once gas pumps and grocery store checkout counters stopped clacking and banging in favor of beeping and buzzing, it became clear that a change was underway — a change that I’d be better off getting in front of, rather than lagging behind.
Syd Jones is not your average guy. From his early adulthood, he’s been…let’s say, unique. Not content to follow the traditional path of a young man fresh out of an educational institution, Syd didn’t find the idea of a regular, stable office job to be all that appealing. Hunting for pirate treasure? Well that’s something else entirely. That sounded exciting. So that’s what Syd did. He joined forces with Mel Fisher’s fledgling band of divers and salvage experts in training and they went after the Nuestra Senora de Atoche.
Amazing things can happen if you just take the time to open your door, invite the neighbors over for a burger, and let them experience for themselves what lights a fire in your belly.
Case in point…Bartow Municipal Airport (BOW) is located smack dab in the middle of the Florida panhandle. It’s not far from the tourist draws of Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland, or the miles and miles of pristine beaches that stretch out on the east and west coast of the state. But it’s far enough from those population dense destinations that it’s surrounded by green landscapes, open spaces, and a relaxed atmosphere that has an undeniable appeal.
I have no idea why, but the best topics of conversation seem to come up most frequently over a meal. Case in point: I was at lunch with a good friend recently. A musician, my friend is a supremely talented man who knows a thing or two about pushing himself to improve at a skill most of us do little more than dabble at. The waitress interrupted us briefly to ask a question about learning to fly, and so we had a short but very enjoyable chat about flight training right there in the middle of a lunch that would have never touched on the subject had it not been for the happy accident of her injecting the topic into our conversation.
After she’d left the table my friend, the musician, asked a question that really resonated with me. “Why would anyone want to learn to fly?” he queried. His inquiry was sincere. It wasn’t a challenge and he implied nothing negative or combative in his question.
My friend simply couldn’t understand why anyone would put themselves through all that work, through the hours of study and practice and expense required to become a pilot.
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.
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.
Last week I found myself in a large hangar surrounded by perhaps as many as 150 individuals who self-identify as rusty pilots. They and I had traveled to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, to enjoy the company of fellow aviation enthusiasts at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association last regional fly-in of the year.