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Pilots Are Sensitive Types

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about how to revitalize the general aviation industry. One area I’ve focused on is identifying what makes pilots so passionate about aviation. What are the common bonds (Common Unity = Community) we share? Then I was hit with an “AHA” moment; I realized that all pilots are sensitive types. No, I don’t mean pilots get hurt feelings, but rather, they are sensitive to the environment surrounding them. I first noticed this back in the 70’s. I was flying in a brand new Piper Lance (with club seating), sitting just behind the pilot, facing aft. E.K. Jones, the legendary leader of Iowa City Flying Service, was in the far rear seat. I heard (felt) a very slight power change, so I turned around to see what was going on “in front”. When I turned back, E.K. looked me right in the eye and said, “I can tell you are a pilot. Only a pilot would have heard that power change.” I wasn’t so sure I believed him, but it stuck with me. Fast forward to the present. My car has been making some unusual sounds. Based on what I heard, I assumed there was a flat spot on one of the tires. And maybe something more, but couldn’t put my finger on it. The noise was driving me nuts. I asked my wife and son (both non-pilots) if it bothered them. They confessed to not hearing anything. Soon thereafter, upon returning from a flight, I offered to drive a pilot buddy home. Halfway there, he commented about the noise the car was making. I told him I was sure it was a flat spot on the tire […]

By |August 8th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

The In’s and Out’s of Flying

In’s and Out’s? Shouldn’t that read, “Up’s and Down’s”? After all, flying is all about up and down, and there’s a lot of press that remind us of the Down’s in our industry. So Marc, what’s UP? When I drive in the area of my home airport (PWK), I notice occupied cars parked by the fence or in the observation area. Sometimes the car is running, sometimes not. In all cases the driver is an active observer of any and all activity on the other side of the fence. The observation area has a picnic table, so it’s not unusual to see a single person or a family enjoying a sandwich while taking in the sights and sounds of the airport. It is clear these observers share our passion. Without speaking a word, we know what they are thinking and feeling. You can see the dream of flight in their eyes. It is clear as a CAVU day. What isn’t as clear is the stark distinction between those that watch from outside the fence, compared to those lucky enough to gain “insider” access to this special place. To state it another way, the emotional separation between the “insiders” and “outsiders” is almost non-existent, but the physical separation is a deep and wide chasm. This “Aha” moment hit me the other day when I drove by the observation area, and noticed a mini-van parked there. I made the turn and parked my car. I saw a man with three young children enjoying their fast food lunch. I had just picked up lunch and was pleased they invited me to join them at the table. The children couldn’t wait to tell me about the airplanes they had seen. Whether on the ground or in the air, they made sure I saw each one […]

By |August 7th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

T-Shirts & Cloud 10

Today is the day. It had been two years since I put “the shirt” into the bottom dresser drawer. I knelt down, slid the drawer open, and peeled back a couple layers of t-shirts, and there it was. Waiting for me, untouched for these past two years. Today is the day. Two nights ago, I checked weather. After all, I was heading to Oshkosh, WI in the morning for AirVenture 2011, and if weather cooperated, I would fly. The past week had been laden with a mixture of VFR and IFR conditions. There seemed to be a lot of convective activity each morning, so was prepared to drive if appropriate. Three hours in the car with fellow pilots was a fun trip, but to state the obvious, I wanted to fly. I had flown in to AirVenture before, but always in the right seat. The TAF’s were for VFR, but visibility was projected to be below my 6-mile personal minimum. My IFR rating and advanced avionics would not help me fly into the world’s busiest airport. See and avoid was my only option for traffic separation. My passengers and I agreed to sync up in the morning and make the plane/car decision. Off to bed (2200) for a good night’s sleep. I felt relaxed, but sleep would not come. I saw the clock pass midnight, and then 0100. I eventually fell asleep, but the 0515 wake up came quickly. Weather hadn’t changed much, with visibility below 3 miles. I estimated the improvement would be too slow, so opted for the car. We established a rendezvous point to make the drive. Another check of WX, showed some improvement (5 miles). Just before I left the house, I […]

By |August 6th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

All in a Day’s Work!

Although he already considered himself a pilot and dreamed of the day he would finally become an airline captain, he would not actually be piloting the airplane at all. The successful completion of an extensive oral exam, flight simulator and aircraft flight tests would earn him his FAA flight engineer certificate – and with it, his official new title as a United Airlines Douglas DC-6 Second Officer (S/O) would take effect.   The past two and a half months at the Flight Training Center in Denver, Colorado were a long and grueling way to begin his career as a United Airlines flight officer. He’d spent countless hours learning the aircraft’s normal, irregular and emergency procedures, the various aircraft systems and just as important, the company flight operations manual (FOM). That’s what was expected of each of the twelve “new hires” in his class. And woe was the new-hire flight officer who could not keep up. They called it, “Drinking from the fire-hose,” because that’s just what it felt like, minus the water.   With his new “FE ticket” tucked into his hip pocket, he proudly walked into the Pittsburg (PIT) flight office and introduced himself to his S/O Line Check Airman (LCA) who spent the next three days looking over his shoulder as they flew into nine different airports before heading back to PIT. Under the LCA’s careful guidance, he was introduced to how things really worked on the line. When satisfied the new S/O could cut it, the LCA had signed him off for “solo” and his next trip was assigned the following evening when crew scheduling phoned the “crash pad” he was sharing with five other new-hires. The first leg of his three […]

Boring Holes: Verb or Adjective?

It all started with a simple comment I made about how great boring holes was on a Saturday afternoon. My wife’s retort was, “EXACTLY!” Had she come around? Did she just want to go flying, without the need to have family waiting at our destination? Was this really my wife, or had some alien taken over her body during the night? It didn’t matter. Truly, this was a magical day. And then it hit me. She thought the word BORING was an adjective, while I used it as a verb. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my kids in an hour, rather than the four hour drive it normally takes. Having a purpose to the trip also makes me feel better about spending whatever it costs me (I never add it up, for fear I will be overcome with guilt). But regardless of the destination, the emotion I feel when flying, is the same every time. Bad days become great days. Good days become great days. Great days, by definition, are the days I fly. At least for me. But not for “her”. A previous article I authored, speaks to my revelation that there are “plane” people and “non-plane” people. And not unlike the famous Seinfeld episode, you just can’t get people to change “teams” (sorry if I lost half the readership with that reference). Undaunted, I committed to finding out why. Not sure why it took me all these years (more than 30) to ask her why she didn’t like to fly, but today was the day. Her one word answer to my question…FEAR. She doesn’t feel the fear when on “big planes” (evidently size does matter), except when encountering the big equalizer….turbulence. She confessed to feeling like the wing may fall off when we hit the bumpy air. In her mind, it’s a small plane […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Reality, Dreams, and Nightmares

Not too long ago, I repeated my morning routine of scanning the newspaper before heading off to work. That day was different however, as I saw a picture of a single engine airplane on the front page of the business section. Naturally, my focus was drawn to the article. The gist of the story was that the economy was negatively impacting flight schools and aviation in general. There were no surprises in the facts presented, but there were statements from student pilots that caused me to take pause. “There is a lot of uncertainty, so I didn’t see it as the smartest move to put $10,000 into something that isn’t really considered a priority. It’s kind of frustrating. But the dream is definitely still there.” “It’s not something that motivates you to stay in a hobby like aviation. I miss it. There is nothing more rewarding than the flying.” The conflict in each of these thoughts is profound. How can a dream of an individual not be a priority? How can someone walk away from a hobby, when they feel there is nothing more rewarding? Mr. Maslow taught us all about the hierarchy of needs (i.e. priorities). It would be tough to argue against prioritizing physiological needs and things like food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education. The question is where do dreams fit? If nothing is more rewarding than your personal dream, shouldn’t that dream find a home on your list of priorities? We all know flying is expensive. But there are ways to mitigate that cost. Those of us passionate about aviation, share a common bond. And I venture to say most pilots would be happy to have someone who dreams of flight, sit in the right seat as they head off to a $100 hamburger or to build proficiency. […]

By |August 3rd, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

“How Much is that Doggie in the Window”

For those of you too young to remember the song that inspired the title of this article, it’s very much akin to the question many pilots hear when talking with non-flying people. “How much does it cost to get a pilot’s license?” I always chuckle when I hear that question. It makes me want to answer, “Why, are you going to stop flying after you earn your license?” Of course the better question is, “how much does it cost to fly?” Whether talking about buying that doggie in the window, or the required investment to start a new hobby (e.g. flying, golf, etc), a cash outlay will be required. But the cost to get started is dwarfed by the ongoing cost. Unlike the business world, where corporations focus on total cost of ownership (TCO), we as individual consumers focus on initial costs only. In addition to understanding the total costs, Corporations seek to understand how much value is realized from their investment. Yet, as individuals, return on investment (ROI) is rarely considered. This is probably because it’s hard to put a numerical value on emotional gain. If we could prove our annual flying costs would put at least that much back in our pocket, we could easily rationalize we were ahead of the game. But value goes beyond money. How much is it worth to you to spend more time with family and friends? What about learning new things, seeing more of this country, gaining self-confidence, helping others, being part of a club, or even just putting a smile on your face? People define value in their own special way. There is an old saying that a mile of highway takes you one mile and […]

By |August 2nd, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

The Next Generation

There they were again. A father and his young son of around twelve stood in their regular spot. They were standing just behind the chain link fence separating the terminal building from the main ramp and had returned just to watch the planes coming and going. I had seen them there at least six or seven times over the past several months. It reminded me of the many times my father had taken me out to the airport near our home on a beautiful evening just to watch. As a new first officer with just a few months experience as a line pilot, I was learning the ropes from the guys who had been flying these routes for years and today was no different. I was flying with a real veteran. He’d been with the company since he was 19 years old, had accumulated nearly 10,000 hours flying these commuter airline routes and was rapidly approaching what, at the time, was the dreaded cutoff age for new hires at the major airlines; 30 years old. The majors were, of course, the ultimate career goal for most of us commuter pilots, but a bad economy had left hundreds of pilots furloughed at most companies with just trickle hiring going on at a few. But things finally seemed to be improving and a few of our senior pilots were actually getting job offers. That was the case for Captain Danny, as we called him. He was on butt nine today. This was his last day as a “Commuter Pilot” before heading off to his “Dream” airline job. Nothing could ruin his day and every fellow worker we saw today congratulated him and wished him well. It almost seemed like a retirement flight, but in reality, was more like a […]

My Wife Doesn’t Understand Me……

Neither do my kids or my neighborhood friends. That’s the conclusion I came to after inviting everyone to a movie night, to watch the general aviation video, “One Six Right”. The plan was simple. Since previous attempts to share my passion for aviation were not successful, certainly no one could resist the words and pictures of this wonderful documentary. I was surprised, but undaunted when they failed to respond to the opening scene of the DVD. As each segment unfolded before them, I searched for the spark, but it was not to be found. Soon the excuses started coming as a constant flow of traffic left the couch for some unknown task upstairs. It was clear they were not to be swayed tonight. Why do some people get the bug and others do not? I thought back to my early childhood. There was no connection to aviation whatsoever. Yet the desire to be a pilot was strong. I remember writing to Cessna sometime back in the 60s, asking them to send information about their planes.   When the brochures arrived in the mail, I opened it to see my first centerfold – the instrument panel. With gauges filling both pages, it was easy to imagine sitting behind the controls. The brochure was laid on the bedspread. With hands under chin and elbows planted firmly on the bed, the dials came alive, bringing my fantasy to life. The view outside the cockpit didn’t matter. It was all about the instruments and being in control of this very special vehicle. That was over 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday. Where my passion came from, I cannot say. It started prior to my first airplane ride; an American Airlines Electra flight from Chicago to Buffalo sometime in the early […]

By |July 31st, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Aviation History

As I spend time browsing the Internet for Aviation related articles, it never ceases to amaze me on the number of fascinating stories that I find about the people that have helped to write the history of Aviation. I have added this section to our Website Blog to highlight some of these articles that I have found. If you have any of your own, please forward them to me and I will add them to the list. To view these articles, simply click on the “Aviation History” link shown on the menu to the left. In order to prevent any copyright issues, this section will differ from our other Blog Posts in that it will provide a short intro to the article and then a link to the actual article on the web. I hope that you enjoy reading these articles as much as I do. Mike Rogers LEFC Communications Chairman

By |July 30th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments