Monday, December 17, 2012

Did 2003 Foreshadow The Future of Flight?

Sitting here in my chair, just inside a large window, rain is falling outside.  Warming my feet is a dog attempting to warm himself with my feet.  Having been outside, he is now a little wet and has decided to share the gift of wet fur with me.  Oddly I smile and remember a day nine years past.
December 17th is hard to forget if you have any aviation friends on facebook.  Were you on hand in Kitty Hawk for the 100th anniversaryof powered flight, it’s something you remember randomly and continuously throughout every year.  Ginger and I were there.  It was a disaster.
Built up, hyped, documented through televised specials, and publicized to the point of hysteria,  fantasy overruled success.  Behind the scenes anyone attempting to shed light on the looming disaster was routinely brushed aside in the interest of feeling good.  “Being positive” was the day’s solution.  Then December 17th, 2003 rolled around and the disaster unfolded on live TV.
The celebration of 100 years of powered aviation had the airspace closed to unapproved aviation.  The President, along with other important dignitaries such as John Travolta, was on hand to give a speech under a logo presented by “Ford Motor Company”.  Chuck Yeager was lauded for flying the millionth Young Eagle while staff from “Flying”, the official publication partner of EAA’s ‘Countdown To Kitty Hawk’ Program, took notes.  Eclipse aircraft symbolized the promise of aviation’s future.  Are you starting to see a trend here?
Let’s review that day.  The same President presided over over some of the most onerous restrictions on aviation.   John Travolta, well, uh, never mind.  Ford Motor Company is still going strong.  Chuck Yeager has since sued his family and friends and lost, thus securing forever his legend as a total prick who is only interested in himself.  The millionth Young Eagle hasn’t made a dent in the pilot population.   And, if you didn’t hear about it, under the Hightower administration, Flying Magazine was screwed by EAA.  Of course, it’s not like anyone was still reading anything but Martha’s column.  As for Eclipse, one can’t help but snicker at the future of aviation bit.  It was a good effort and I applaud them for trying but when tied to this event as the future, I have to laugh.  This “celebration” was a disaster for everyone but the sponsors who were not aviation oriented.
Ford is doing well, the Discovery Channel is doing well, Microsoft, also a sponsor, is doing well.  Everyone else, not so much.  What does this mean?
It’s easy really.  Aviation has fallen prey to fantasy.  Like the average American, aviation seems to believe reality is bad news.  It certainly isn’t “positive”.  No, in today’s world it is much better to sell out to sponsors and revel in the glory of fantasy.   Our leaders hear what they want to hear and do what they wish would work instead of what would.  Then they expect us to be positive when things are a disaster.
Our groups commonly abandon effective programs to support grass roots aviation in the interest of safety, green energy, and rubbing elbows with celebrities.  When that isn't good enough, they make their own "legends" and put them into leadership positions.  If all else fails, they “work closely with” politicians and the FAA to negotiate away our aviation freedoms.  But why do these things continue to happen?  Because members who prefer fantasy eat it up.
Now, as I sit here with wet legs and a warm dog, I am reminded of that day in Kitty Hawk.  My legs were wet and wool coat smelled of damp fur.   Around us thousands of people celebrated the future of aviation with positivity and therefore the notion of weather as an excuse.  Today though, most things associated with that day can be documented to be either a failure or disaster, or something that had a hugely negative impact on aviation.  The pilot population is fading, aviation is on the ropes, and it is still looked down upon as negative to speak the truth.
Thinking back, this celebration, not Eclipse, may have been the real future of aviation.  If this makes you feel bad, don’t worry.  I’m positive that posting a photo of the Wright brother’s flight on facebook will make it all better.

Note:  Thanks to those of you who are doing more than your share to combat these problems.  You are in the minority, you do not have enough support, and yet you do not give up.

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