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?
When I was actively instructing years ago, I noticed that a high percentage of the students I flew with played a musical instrument. Typically, it was a hobby.
Ironically perhaps, prior to getting into aviation on a full time basis, I was a professional musician. Which is to say I was young, poor, worked very hard, and had an absolute blast playing music for a living – even if I have to use the term “for a living” judiciously.
When my friends were in college, I was playing in a band. When my high school buddies were starting their careers in business, I was still playing in a band. When they got married, had their first kid, and were starting to think about taking on a mortgage, I was still staying out late playing guitar and singing songs in exchange for cash.
Admittedly, I took it a little farther than most do. But that’s not to say my affection for music was any more profound than that of my amateur musician students.
Yet I never made the connection John Zapp and Aileen Hummel did. In essence they theorized this: If pilots tend to be musical, perhaps musicians could be drawn to aviation.
It’s a eureka moment that has yet to change the world, but it’s certainly making a dent in the problem.
This past weekend representatives of the Flying Musicians Association were in residence in Frederick, Maryland, for the AOPA homecoming fly-in. They’ll be on hand Nov. 8 for the next AOPA regional event scheduled for St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, too. I’ve found them at SUN ‘n FUN and I’ve been entertained by their playing at the US Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida.
These folks get around. And maybe that’s part of the magic of this initiative.
Music, like aircraft, can be transported from one place to another relatively easily. Common instruments like guitars, banjos, harmonicas, and fiddles are fairly small and very light. They fit in the luggage compartment of even a small training aircraft. For campers who intend to fly out and spend a couple days under the wing, having musical instruments on hand can transform an otherwise dull, lonely evening into a rollicking fun time.
Better yet, music holds another great commonality with aviation. It’s inherently social. Like flying, you won’t find too many people who are willing to jump up, grab an instrument and start playing in public. But you won’t find many who aren’t interested in pulling up a chair and listening, either.
Could there be an opportunity to draw people into aviation and hold their interest through music? It seems so. If nothing else the addition of musical accompaniment might just make the local airport seem a little less threatening and a little more inviting.
A well earned tip of the hat to Zapp and Hummel who realized the potential of combining their interest in music with their interest in aviation in a way that welcomes others to participate as fully as they wish.
The organization is growing and making real strides to introduce and bond people to aviation through a common love of music. They encourage members to hold hangar concerts and participate in fly-in events both large and small.
The key being they encourage participation, involvement, creative input and real dedication, which are all required if we really hope to turn the general aviation bandwagon around and get people climbing on instead of jumping off. The Flying Musicians Association seems to be doing just that. Thankfully.
You may agree with this new organization’s goals. You may find their mission statement to be one of great benefit. Heck, you may even become a member. But whatever you think, however you feel about their initiative, I would urge you to take a page from their book and do something.
Life is a verb. So tune yourself up, pick a direction, and get started. There will be bumps in the road. There will be naysayers who disparage your best efforts. So what. Do something anyway.
In the long run those who do something tend to find themselves in a much better position than those who chose to do nothing. And if you can play a jaunty tune with a friend or two along the way, so much the better.