When my kids were small, they had a tendency to affix stickers to almost anything they could get their hands on. Cute little colorful representations of their cartoon heros, or the stuffed animals that seemed to be everywhere.
These stickers ended up on toys, bedroom furniture, even the door to their room. It seemed like every time I turned around there was a new My Little Pony badge glued to a bedpost, or the image of Jimmy Neutron staring back at me from a dresser drawer.
This struck me as odd behavior. Sometimes it even made me angry. I mean, here I’d scrimped and saved, and suffered to come up with a down payment on this humble home of ours, and the kids were ruining every flat surface by covering the place with adhesive-backed paper.
Those stickers don’t come off easily, by the way. Quite a few of them are still there, covered by layers of paint applied with the best of intentions.
What turned me around was an epiphany that occurred to me while walking through the hangar at Tom Reilly’s Warbird Museum in Kissimmee, Florida. Tom’s gone off to Georgia now. The museum nearby, across the taxiway from where Tom’s hangar was, is now owned and operated by Warbird Adventures.
It’s a great outfit. Visit if you get the chance. You’ll enjoy it.
That morning as I squeezed between the airframes jammed into the back half of the hangar, I noticed a Pratt & Whitney label on a red toolbox. A scan of the other toolboxes on the floor revealed a wide assortment of stickers from NASA, Apple computer, Boeing, Cessna, Curtiss-Wright, and so many more.
Interestingly enough, although the business is focused on warbirds as a specialty, the men and women who work there have aeronautical interests that range from ultralights to spacecraft. Some had worked on machines that ran that full gamut, too.
The whole sticker thing began to reformulate in my brain. My kids weren’t trying to irritate me anymore than my fellow mechanics were trying to lower the value of their toolboxes or suggest a dissatisfaction with their current lot in life.
Instead, they were marking their intellectual territory. They were saying, “This is something that’s important to me. It helps define who I am, what I do, and what I dream about at night.”
I get that.
The reason I mention this is because I spent some time last week carefully placing a large round decal onto the tail of my flying club’s airplane.
Normally, I’m not much of a sticker guy. There are none on my desk. None adorn my laptop. I don’t have bumper stickers on my car, either.
But I do have them on either side of the tail of my flying club’s airplane. And there’s a very good reason for that. The club airplane excites me like a six year old with a new toy.
Just as my kids were marking their territory by putting stickers all over anything that lived in their rooms, I take great pride in knowing that I own a piece of the club that owns that airplane. It’s mine, in a manner of speaking.
So why not shout it from the rooftops? Why not stand up tall and proudly exclaim, “That’s not just any old white Cessna with a red stripe, that’s our white Cessna with a red stripe.”
Now anyone can see that from way across the ramp. Yeah. That’s what it’s all about.
I didn’t do this unilaterally, of course. Nor is it the result of a uniquely original idea.
The desire to mark our territory goes way back in human history. The desire to label our belongings, or market our products by using an image, goes back at least as far as the knights of old and the pubs they entertained themselves in. Probably farther, frankly.
Coats of Arms weren’t invented to keep anyone warm. They were designed to make others aware of who they were dealing with.
My flying club started to think about the idea of putting a simple decal on our airplane’s tail after we came across a beautiful, richly colored emblem on the tail of a similar Cessna that had parked on our ramp for a time.
It read “Conch Republic Air Force” around the upper curve of the circular decal, with a red tailed biplane on a blue background, over a military looking patch and the Roman numeral MCMLXXXII (which indicates 1982, of course). At the bottom it read “Key West.”
Our club’s emblem isn’t nearly so colorful. It’s a simple black and white affair, because we’re simple folk. The salt of the earth, as it were. Ours involves two concentric black circles, with a stylized high wing airplane in the center. The name, “Central Florida Flying Club” fills the top of the arc, while “Est. 2015” fills the bottom. Our home base identifier “KGIF” sits just below the image of the airplane.
It’s simple. It’s an inexpensive purchase, and it’s frankly fairly easy to apply. At 2′ wide, it makes a statement. One that my fellow flying club members and I care about more than those who might view it, in truth.
But so what? We’re proud of our airplane. We’re proud of our club. So why not say it with all the fervor and excitement of a kid making it clear who’s toy box is whose?
Childish? No. Child-like? Sure, why not. I’ll do what I can to keep that Peter Pan momentum alive for as long as I can. Because Peter Pan could fly, you know. And so can I. So can you.