Last week saw the launch of the 2017 fly-in season as the gates to the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, flew open.
The Florida Aviation Network broadcast interviews with notables across the Internet.
And EAA Chapter 1240, which is based right there on the field, hosted a magnificent dinner with none other than Story Musgrave as their keynote speaker.
Pilot, astronaut, trauma surgeon, businessman, holder of several advanced degrees, and renowned high school drop out, Story Musgrave is about as good as it gets in my book.
The thrill of the airshow/fly-in activities is broad-based and action packed. From the teenagers prowling the ramps feeling the excitement of being allowed to sit in an aircraft cockpit for the first time, to the administrators who keep the lights on and the water flowing, aviation attracts an amazing assortment of folks, young and old, all of whom get something of value out of their time on the ramp.
Many of the folks I interacted with had a story to tell. Some had several. The vast majority of the stories that came my way were true, or at least defensible.
Yet there are a few folks at any large gathering who are busy manufacturing a narrative of their own. In at least a few cases, the information they have to share is entirely imaginary and possibly even dangerous.
Should you ever find yourself engaged with one of these people, might I suggest smiling politely, enjoying the story for what it is, and discarding that information when the speaker parts company with you. That’s as good as you’ll get in that situation. Believe me.
The term “buyer beware” extends well past the cash registers and card readers of the vendor’s tables. There are some dubious folks out there in the crowd.
If you can keep your head and merely see them as entertainment, you’re doing well. If you succumb to their gibberish, you just might have problems.
One topic that was of great interest at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, as it is with pilots throughout the United States, is BasicMed, the FAA’s new rules that pertain to how they’ll handle third class medicals in the future.
It stands to reason that pilots would be interested, since BasicMed will have an impact on virtually all private, recreational, and many sport pilots. Thankfully, several of the professional aviation folks on the field had a solid grasp on the new rules and were willing to share that information.
Better yet, the organizers of the Expo brought an Aviation Medical Examiner onto the ramp and set him up in a space where he could offer medical exams right on site.
That option was well received. One of the attendees to the AOPA Rusty Pilot seminar I conducted on Friday morning had been issued his temporary medical right there in that space the day before.
What concerned me — and I’m sorry to say it didn’t surprise me at all — was the number of people who had medical questions, yet intentionally avoided straying anywhere near the medical exam area. They had questions, but preferred to get their information second and third hand rather than going to the source.
This befuddles me. Why some folks resist talking to an expert who is at hand, available for conversation, and willing to answer your questions…well, I just don’t get it.
Some of my FAA contacts tell me the same story. People will avoid going to the pros at all cost, preferring to listen to a friend, an acquaintance, or a total stranger with no credentials, but a really good story to tell.
Remember that buyer beware thing? Yeah, this is where that becomes particularly important and worrisome.
A trio of gentlemen approached me while I was in conversation with a lapsed pilot who was quite interested in how much it might cost him to buy a good, used airplane.
I told him about the Reimagined Cessna 152 right there at the booth I was working. I told him I’d flown it in to the show, and would fly it out again. In fact I fly that airplane quite frequently, and usually with a song in my heart and a smile on my face.
I added that I also own a Cessna 150 I’d purchased for far less than the price of a low-end new car. It’s a good airplane that also sees regular use.
As I began to explain some considerations, like getting a good pre-buy inspection and doing regular maintenance, one of the newly arrived trio spoke up.
“You know you can make your own parts for that airplane if you own it,” he announced with impressive self-confidence. “It’s in the rules.”
“You can do that on some airplanes,” I agreed. “Experimentals, or antiques that are long out of production, but not this one. You need to use Cessna parts or parts that are approved for the airplane.”
“Nope,” he countered. “The owner can make his own parts. A mechanic can’t, but the owner can.”
He shrugged as if his point was common knowledge. “It makes no sense, but it’s in the rules.”
He was smiling and smug as he wandered on down the flightline, sure as he could be that he’d put me in my place, and informed the gentleman I was speaking to in the process.
He’s a bit off base, of course. Airplane ownership doesn’t convey any special rights or privileges. In fact, ownership comes with a substantial list of responsibilities. It can be a worthwhile tradeoff, but it does not allow you to make your own parts of any airplane you own.
Go ahead, look it up. That’s what a real expert would do.