Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Great News - Rare Airplanes Grounded

Does anyone know what the Vintage Aircraft Association is about?  Why does it exist?  I'm not being snarky, I'm serious.
Today, while reading an article in the latest Vintage Magazine about a Buhl Airsedan, I found something that is getting to be all too familiar; the celebration of the permanent grounding of vintage aircraft.  Sure, some of you will read that article and wonder where was the celebration but you should understand that making it to print means one of three qualifications has been met; it is worthy of celebrating, it notes a loss or disaster, or it is news.  Since nowhere in the article did anyone lament the loss of another flying aircraft or the airworthy parts contained within, and it wasn't written in the form or language reserved for mere news, then it was for all practical purposes a celebration of the restoration and where it was to end up.  This is bothersome.
Yes, it is possible the problem is with my perception of Vintage.  For as long as I can remember, I thought Vintage was about rescuing, restoring, and flying vintage airplanes and promoting the same to future generations.  Yet, the culmination of the article about the Buhl told a different story.  This piece was about a family who found two rare flying machines, bought them, restored one, flew them a little, got a few moments of glory at Oshkosh, and then took them home to "retire" (park permanently) both machines in a monument to their family
These stories are always the same.  Family claims to love flying and to have always had the passion, proclaim their interest in bringing back of piece of history to flying condition, then everything they say and do after that defies all that preceded.  In fact, the last two paragraphs read as though these people had rarely ever laid eyes on anything outside of commercial aviation and that the Airsedan restoration was nothing more than a whim.
So is there a problem with that?  Nope, not at all.  People can do whatever they want with their aircraft.  The issue at hand is the willingness of our flying publications to publish articles with such obvious inconsistencies and to make these people out as heroes.  This brings me back to my question; what is Vintage about?
If it is about parking vintage airplanes in monuments to ourselves, then this article is right at home.  Yet, if Vintage is about rescuing, rebuilding, and flying old planes and promoting the same to new and future generations, then this article has no place is this publication.  Furthermore, "Vintage" management should make sure that anything which celebrates the unnecessary parking of a vintage airplane is never printed in Vintage again.

Oh wait, I forgot a very important point.  On page one of the same issue, Vintage President Geoff Robison was lamenting the decline in Vintage membership.  Now ask yourself, "how exactly does a group that is losing members come to the conclusion it would be a great idea to make heroes of people who are grounding vintage aircraft"?  It's a head-scratcher.


Hank Galpin said...

Hi Rich, Wow, you hit my hot button. Vintage Magazine has been totally blind to good stories for at least fifteen years. The canning of their recent editor and the acknowledgements of the VAA president indicate that the management knew something was amiss and only just recently realized that they needed to address the problem. Declining membership was the seminal event. Of course, we all know that aviation is in free-fall. It is incumbent upon me, and you, and everyone who reads this comment, to reverse this situation.
Let me give you a little history of my experience with the VAA. In 1999 the editor of Sport Aviation, Scott Spangler, invited EAA members to write to him about their concerns. So, I did. I was critical of VAA, but in fairness I offered suggestions for improvements. (Somewhere I have a copy of the original letter, and I would be willing to share it if requested.) I specifically stated that my letter was for the editor's eyes only. The evident result was that I was blacklisted, which indicates that the editor shared my letter with the Vintage editor. I feel that proof of this manifested itself when I was privileged to participate in the 2003 National Air Tour. The Vintage editor was with us for maybe three days, and on every occasion I tried to introduce myself, he turned his back to me. I felt it was deliberate.
Anyway, one of my suggestions was that the editor should solicit stories. I had been editor of the Montana Antique Airplane Association's newsletter for several years. My friend Ray Sanders finished the restoration of an OX5 Swallow and I interviewed by telephone the pilot who crashed the airplane in 1936. We had photos and, if I may say so, a great narrative. The story was worth national exposure. But there is no incentive to help Vintage magazine. Budd and Sparky are very fine writers, and I am sure they are compensated for their contributions. Well, you know and I know, writing is real work, so why can't an amateur like me earn two bits or fifty cents a word for an article?
Here's another example. In the MAAA newsletter I published an article about how to make louvers. It was recently republished by Jerry Impellezeri in the Travel Air Log. Surely the Vintage folks read the type club newsletters. The most recent Vintage magazine had a short article about how to bend capstrip. I really enjoy Bob Lock's work, but bending capstrip is really elementary.
OK, enough of that. I do enjoy getting on a soap box from time to time. Unfortunately, I am usually preaching to the choir.
Long ago someone told me that if one P-51 is in a museum somewhere, the rest should be flying. I believe in sharing my airplane and using it up. (My airplane can be rebuilt from scrap. I know that because I did it.) In the last ten years I have had 2000 passengers. On three American Barnstormer Tours I opened the airplane to all comers and encouraged people to take photos of their kids sitting in the cockpit. I am vigilant, but no one has ever damaged my airplane, and I fervently hope that I have had a positive influence on at least one family.
Before I forget, why did Vintage have no interest in the National Air Tour (save one short article) or four successful American Barnstormer Tours (save one photo with garbled information in 2012)? It's the NIH syndrome. Not Invented Here.
Hank Galpin

Anonymous said...

“Of course, we all know that aviation is in free-fall. It is incumbent upon me, and you, and everyone who reads this comment, to reverse this situation.”

Hank is never one to mince words, preciously why he is one of my favorite Barnstormers. His challenge to all of us is very inspiring. Hank and Ray are two of the American Barnstormers Tour’s aviation ambassadors, sharing their passion for flying and love of antiques to ramps full of non-aviation folks all across the country. With each flight and each cockpit tour they give, they are “reversing the situation,” and have donated thousands of hours and thousands of dollars promoting vintage aviation to new and future generations. My part “to reverse the situation” is as a voice for the tours. I beg, cajole, plead, and contrive ways to get press that will bring as many people to the airport as possible, so they can see the planes fly and meet the barnstormers. Sometimes I fail horribly and the airport is a ghost town despite my best efforts. Sometimes I can’t ask the same writer/editor for anymore favor’s. Hank’s frustration with Vintage Airplane's coverage of the American Barnstormers Tour is my responsibility, and the ABT crew deserves the cover of Time magazine every tour, if only I was smart enough to get it for them!

HG and Vintage did write about the first two tours as did Sport Aviation, Air and Space, and AOPA Pilot. Al Marsh at AOPA Pilot, road along the first part of the inaugural Tour and Jim Busha, the new editor of Vintage Airplane, joined up for stops at the end of that Tour, writing an eight page story published in Sport Pilot - November, 2006. By Tour three and four we were old news and realistically the most publicity we could expect was a short article or a blog post in a national publication and had to focus on regional ones. I believe Al Marsh has me listed simply as “stalker” in his address book. Jim Busha’s a cop, so certainly I set off some alert when I send him yet another email, about yet another story, that I think should be told. The point is, to not give up and be silent. Sometimes they agree with me and sometimes they don’t, that's just how it works. Write Jim Busha at Vintage and tell him about the stories you have or would like to see, he honestly is interested.

Thanks Rich, Nordo News is a great expression of your passion for vintage aviation and a reminder that we all have a voice and the ability “to reverse the situation.”

Sarah Wilson