Aviation gets its cool back

For the past week I have been acting in a very non-Floridian fashion. While the typical Sunstate dweller seeks shade and close proximity to a pool, I have been standing beside large expanses of pavement soaking up the sun with gusto. My excuse is a good one, however.

I was at SUN ‘n FUN, the kick-off event of the aviation season that attracts people from near and far to sample the delights of aviation from Remotely Piloted Aircraft, also known as drones,  to homebuilts, Warbirds, Light-Sport Aircraft, helicopters, biplanes, the Thunderbirds, the Breitling Jet team, and pretty much anything else that flies or can be installed in an aircraft. [Read more…]

Have you ever considered teaching?

You may have heard somewhere that a pilot shortage is looming. Personally, I believe that rumor to be true. I also believe there will be challenges in finding qualified people to fill skilled positions as aircraft mechanics, engineers, designers, administrators, and maybe even line personnel. The future is a blank slate. However, we can affect it if we choose to. [Read more…]

Do unto others, and all that sort of thing

Poster

You know the drill. The neighbors complain about the airport because it’s populated entirely by spoiled, rich white guys who get their kicks by flying low over the neighborhood and making lots of noise.

We can disagree, we can explain, we can put thousands of hours of effort into going door to door to tell our story – but none of that will change the general public’s disdain for the local general aviation airport. We’re the pariah of the municipality. Noisy, expensive, and very nearly useless.

Or at least that’s how most of our neighbors see us. [Read more…]

Go where your heart takes you

By FlugKerl2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It will come as no shock to regular readers of this column that I am on a mission. My goal, and yes I have absolutely chosen to accept it, is to shepherd as many aviation enthusiasts into the industry as full participants as I possibly can.

If they learn to fly, that’s great. But if they choose to fill other roles in the industry, that’s fine with me, too. Whether they involve themselves professionally or on an occasional basis as a hobby, I consider it a win whenever someone new breaks out of the pedestrain day-to-day grind and takes to the skies in an aircraft.

It’s an awesome job, and thank goodness I get to do it. There is nothing I’d rather be doing. Truly. [Read more…]

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…]