It might be said that curiosity is the core of a pilot’s soul. While those not involved in aviation may speak of flying as some sort of magical pursuit, those who take to the skies with regularity know it’s not just about “floating” in the atmosphere — it’s about discovery. It’s about diving into the unknown and making it known.
Yes, it does seem that aviation attracts a certain type. And invariably, those that are interested are interesting.
Budd Davisson is one such example. Longtime editor-in-chief at Flight Journal and a CFI for 53 years, his writing has been featured in dozens of magazines, two novels, and a prolific blog at Airbum.com that is apt to cover topics as wide ranging as hot rods and politics to the impact of technology on the modern world.
But as Davisson confirms, in the world of flying he is far from alone.
As an example, he offers his experience over the years in visiting aviation’s premiere event, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Looking back on his 51 consecutive trips as a journalist — the first four were at Rockford — Budd says that one of his favorite things to do is strike up random conversations with event goers, simply to discover where their careers and hobbies intersect.
It’s really amazing, he says of his fellow pilots at Oshkosh: “Every damn one of ’em have a whole bunch of things other than aviation that they’re into.”
Of course, Budd’s ability to get people talking and to bring out their enthusiasm are the same traits that have made him not only one of the industry’s top instructors, but also one of its leading resources on flight-related topics ranging from every day general aviation to historical military aircraft.
So much so, in fact, that sometimes, he finds himself in a sort of “writers’ paradox.”
“I’ve been doing this so long,” he adds ironically, that when researching a story, “I’ll find myself bringing up sources and I’ll realize that as a source document I’ll be using one of my own articles.”
“It’s kind of hysterical,” he adds with a laugh. “I’m doing stories on vintage airplanes now that I did pilot reports on when they were brand new. My first column came out in 1969. All of it seems like it was yesterday.”
But as the longtime pilot notes, he feels quite fortunate to have had a career that allows such variety.
With the help of an old article on personality types and cockpit management, Davisson has identified himself as the “Happy Type A Personality,” at his most content when every day is different, and he’s allowed to pursue those things that he’s most passionate about.
Naturally, that lends itself to an entrepreneurial streak, which has produced, among other ventures, he and his wife’s bed and breakfast in Phoenix, Arizona, where pilots from around the world come to learn advanced tailwheel skills behind the stick of Davisson’s Pitts S-2A.
Booked more than 200 days a year, the B&B has only reinforced his view that pilots are, largely speaking, cut from a different cloth.
“Every single person that has walked through the door here are people that you’d like to spend time with,” he says. “We are constantly amazed at the quality of people. Uniformly they’re a higher IQ bunch, just really fun people to be with, and extraordinarily interesting. That’s pretty much true for aviation in general.”
And for those looking to join the ranks, but hesitant to undertake such advanced tailwheel training, Budd is quick to assure that pretty much anyone can learn to handle a Pitts. Though he notes that with such a wide range of pilot experience and learning styles, it’s important for he and fellow CFIs to continue to hone their teaching craft.
“The FAA is big on standardized flight training, but my argument is show me a standardized student,” he says.
A fair point — and that helps to keep it interesting.
What I Fly
It’s a 1974 Pitts S-2A.
Why I Fly It
I’m kind of a go to guy internationally teaching people how to land these things. I do aerobatics too. It’s like an old friend, kind of like an old pair of boots.
How I Fly it
I shoot landings. Talking to myself as if I were talking to a student, to make sure that the verbiage and the words that I’m using match what I’m doing. It’s easy as an instructor to think you’re doing one thing and to verbalize it in the wrong way.
All of instructing is about communication — period. It’s so easy to use words that mean something to you that don’t mean something to somebody else.
Operating Costs Based on 100 Hours Per Year
Make every flight an exercise in trying to improve on the last one. That’s what keeps you from going downhill.