Around the Airport

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Excuse Me for Understanding

I'm not sure it gets any better than this.
It’s amazing how things tend to pop up at the most coincidental times.  Discussing the beauty of a hand built flying machine as simple, beautiful and free, had me on a roll.  There in the heat of highlighting its greater potential meaning arose ADD.  Out the other side popped a video trailer.  Wanna ride a bike?
Watching the trailer come to life, I was amazed how closely it shared the words I had written just a few moments before.

Aviation: The Invisible Highway (Trailer #1) from Aviation: The Invisible Highway on Vimeo.

“Flying has become ordinary.  Sometimes it’s even hard to see what’s right in front of us. When airplanes were invented their purpose was simple”.  Then the trailer went horribly wrong, “To take us farther as faster”.   Unfortunately, that simply is not true, and to be clear, there’s no way I would have written that.  Of course, since the video is heavily weighted toward modern commercial aviation, what should I expect?
This is exactly the subject I had just been writing about when someone offered me this well financed example.   Flying has become ordinary.  Even those involved have forgotten how great it can be because they have forgotten what it was about. When airplanes were invented, their purpose was simple; to set us free.
Humans were not striving to go farther and faster.  They wanted to fly like the birds.  To be free from the chains of mankind and gravity were goals worthy of any cost.  People of the day were connected to their surroundings, conscious of their burdens.  Birds were above it all.  Further and faster is the effect, not the cause
Sadly though, today even our groups don’t understand that.  They know organization, hierarchies, and fund raising.  And although I certainly am no enemy of funds, I realize there is a point the purpose loses out to the process.  This is where the danger lies.
When the person shuffling the cups doesn’t know where the ball is, or even what it looks like, an orb of a different color can be slipped easily into place.  And this is what we’re experiencing.  Our groups no longer understand what aviation was that made it great.  They only see what it is today and view it through the eyes of those who contribute the most.
Believing fully they understand, the vintage lines and layouts of a biplane are what they use to explain its appeal; a Pietnpol’s disconnect from today is the thing that makes it special.  Unfortunately, again, the causes are invisible; they see only the effects.
It is not the lines and multi-plane layout that draws a person to a biplane.  No, like the subtle scent of a woman or the disguised intelligence of someone you find strangely attractive, it is that which only the mind can see, its formulas a mystery but always correct, which make it truly desirable.
When you set your eyes on a beautiful thing like this Pietenpol, you see the straightness of lines interrupted by the roundness of tires and that foot well glistening like a diamond stud on a turtle.  At the surface it may not fit the modern ideas of beauty, but the gemstone archway reveals something deeper to those who feel.
The engine isn’t faired; its complexity lies exposed. Metal is bent not shaped. Creature comforts are flagrantly absent.
Yet, the mind sees these points and it knows.  It is a machine worthy of passion.
Beyond the reach of the eyes lie years’ worth of labor.  A warm human hand has touched every piece, felt every grain.  Materials for them have been sourced, parts discovered, and some quite possibly invented.  Cold and without feeling, each piece viewed is inanimate.  Yet, all of them are embedded with the heartbeat of creation and memories of those who helped.
Cockpit combing hides are laced with care.  Not discarded in vain but reused, they offer another living creature protection.  Nothing in this machine is wasted.  Each part is appreciated.  The cost of everything is known.
Perhaps though it is the landing gear which offers the greatest insight to what aviation was.  Providing little in the way of shock absorption, legs made of wood and strengthened with cord, provide just enough support to get you where you yearn to be - free of Earth and the burdens of life, up there with the birds.
Wheels are for the surface.  Time and complexity added there would be wasted.  The goal is to fly.  See the wings, they required attention and shaping.  The gear not so much.  Even in action they tell the story.
Accelerating slowly across that field, the jolts from the surface resonate on your backside; Earth translates as harsh.  The faster you roll the worse it gets.  And then, in an instant, your soul is set free on wing.  Everything is better.  The air smells different, you’re view of the world changes, those burdens are left behind.
Turning and soaring as a bird, literally feeling the clouds on your face, is an experience monks take decades to discover.  It mesmerizes the soul.  It's that feeling right before you fall asleep, when you agree to give in and forget the days troubles; the calmness of rest in a moment of awareness.   Then bump, BANG, jolt, you have returned to ground.  The Earth translates as harsh, unbendable.  It was all worth it.  Your mind was right.  That polished arch footwell was a gateway to something special; a thing earned not given.  Freedom
Today’s aviation doesn’t see this, feel it, or have the desire to know.  And perhaps then it is no mystery why that is the reaction young people give aviation.  They are reflecting the world they’re shown, repeating what they’re taught, and missing life in the process.
After planes were invented, farther and faster ruled the day.






*Brian T, if you're listening.  I think your message would resonate better, and be correct, if it said, Screen 1 - When airplanes were invented, their purpose was simple, Screen 2 - FREEDOM,  Screen 3 - That freedom would take us further and faster, Screen 4 - Than we ever thought imaginable.   And one last thing, Big Fish is one of my all time favorite movies.

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