In your town, right now, there is a good old boy network firmly in place. I know this because there is a good old boy network in place in every town. Whether you’re in New York City, Los Angeles, Clarksville, Texas, or Carrington, North Dakota, there is a group of men and women known locally — and not always affectionately — as the good old boys network.
My family is probably as dysfunctional and weird as any. Yet for all the squawking and sarcasm and occasional emotional outbursts, we still care for one another. You might even say we love each other. Certainly, there’s a sense of trust and acceptance that defies logic. I’m proud of that. I suspect most parents feel similarly when reflecting on their own family units.
Since they were very young we’ve instilled this concept into our children and into ourselves. We don’t lie. Not even a little bit. Honesty matters. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that integrity is the only thing any man or woman can actually keep — if they choose to.
There was a time not so long ago when aviation was cool. It was hip. It was a celebrity in its own right.
Being photographed next to an airplane was a dream come true. Being one of the lucky few who got to actually fly from here to there, faster than any train or car could transport you, was treat that would be told and retold at water-coolers and cocktail parties and pretty much anywhere else people gathered. If you actually knew how to fly you were a virtual demi-god, celebrated by friends and neighbors. You were feted by family. Aviation was king.
It ain’t that way no more.
I’ve just returned from a beautiful morning chat on my friend Ben’s front porch. Ben’s 87 years old. As a solid member of that group known as the greatest generation, he fills the bill well.
A southern boy born into hard work and low expectations, he went off to war as a young man in his teens. He found himself in the Pacific where he did things and saw things most of us would rather not know about.
But he soldiered on, did his duty, came home, went to college, and made quite a success of himself. In fact, he’s something of an institution in my neck of the woods.
Among Ben’s great contributions to the world is the love of flight a handful of middle-aged men share. [Read more…]
When the topic of aviation comes up, it is almost a given that the conversation will come around to pilots. Even if the discussion isn’t about flying itself, the chatter still turns to pilots. Whether you’re interacting with an aviation-centric audience or a rabble that wants to shut down the local airport, the person most identified with the airport is a pilot.
On Friday, May 23, Hiram Mann was laid to rest. After 92 years his body had given all it had to give.
He was my friend. I’m sorry to say I was not at the ceremony with his family, his illustrious peers, and others who witnessed a U.S Air Force honor guard attending to his interment. Rather, I was a thousand miles away attending the wedding of my son. It was a wonderful wedding, but I must admit, Hiram was on my mind the whole time. He was not your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of guy.
If you ever find yourself searching for an example of how one man can make a profound and lasting difference in the world, consider Hiram’s life as proof.
Last week news organizations gleefully trumpeted the near collision of two airliners. Their coverage was spotty at best, with few, if any, first hand accounts from anyone with actual knowledge of the event, other than the description of a passenger.
Fortunately for editors and news producers who are too busy or disinterested to assign actual reporters to what is purported to be an earth-shattering story of epic proportions, one passenger seated aboard one of those aircraft sidelines was a writer, or a blogger at least. He wrote a first-person account of his experience that appears to have fueled the media frenzy over the near-event. He titled that expose, “Two Weeks Ago, I Almost Died in the Deadliest Plane Crash Ever.”
Regular readers of this column may notice a small change to the bio blurb that runs below. It’s shorter. The line about being the founder and president of the Polk Aviation Alliance has been removed, because although I remain the founder, I am no longer the president. I’ve resigned.
My local newspaper, which seems to be struggling to decide whether it wants to be more of a National Enquirer sort of sensationalist rag or a TMZ sort of sensationalist rag, ran my resignation as a front page story.
Perhaps it has occurred to you. as it has to me, aviation attracts high achievers like a moth to a flame. Ours is not the domain of the weak or timid. Similarly it’s not an exclusive outpost for rich, old, white guys who split their time between the golf course, the yacht club, the airport, and pillaging the economy for their own personal gain. That’s the common perception of us. Wrong as it may be, that image persists.
Perhaps it’s time for us to correct that mischaracterization. [Read more…]
There is a story that circulates in the music business that suggests an interesting parallel to general aviation. The story takes place in the late 1960s when Jimi Hendrix and his band arrived at the BBC studios to do a soundcheck in preparation for a performance to be recorded later in the day.
For those who are unfamiliar, a soundcheck is an abbreviated performance that allows the sound engineers to talk to the musicians, try each instrument in turn, try them all together, and find the various volumes and settings that allow the band to sound as they should for the performance.