Friday, July 25, 2014

The EAA Editorial That Seemed So Out Of Place?

When a friend asked me if I had read a certain editorial in Sport Aviation, I knew it had to be interesting.  Wanting to see it, I went in search of a copy.  I didn't have one for a reason.
Did you know that Ginger was an EAA member long before I was?  It's true.  She's always been ahead of the curve.  And yet, contrary to many of today's female aviators, she isn't much for the feminist mindset; the "I am woman hear me roar" types who have to point out they are a female pilot at every turn.  But, when everyone addresses me, all questions are posed to me, and everyone including EAA assumes I am the person to address, even I find it aggravating. Because of this, a few years back I tried to get EAA to change our membership to have her name as the one on record.  She was after all, the person who finally drug me to Oshkosh. Unfortunately though, after many attempts, EAA never could make it happen and, in the process of one of those attempts, our memberships lapsed.  That's why I didn't have a copy.  But I digress...
Once I found the editorial I read it several times.   It was obviously out of place.  More importantly though, a serious concern came over me.  Because of the well crafted text, some people could read this and think it was great.
The words spoke of positives and things that would move aviation forward.  Suggested were the notions of not being behind the times and moving into the modern world; something which plays well on everyone. And logic was used like statistics; hiding reality with numbers that sounded good.  It was the wet dream of a person who has no love for grass roots aviation and who possessed an open contempt for the E in EAA until he was offered a paying job there.
Even scarier, contained within the editorial were words which appeal to a dumbed down segment of pilots; those who find more pleasure in a color screen than that which can be seen from the cockpit. Given the choice, these same people would chose jet airliners over DC-3s; Les Abend over Gordon Baxter.   More to the point, it simply did not belong in the magazine. And yet I must give the author credit.  In a manner befitting a charismatic leader that leads his people into disaster through the use of cleverly arranged speeches, he almost managed to sneak the tenets of IFR by me as stand-ins for basic flying skills.  In short, it all sounded pretty good until you felt the true meaning of the words.
Ironically, the editorial in question starts with an example that, were it clearly stated, would trash the author's entire editorial premise; his pilot of example that is burdened by having to look outside is actually student who can't look out the window because he would lose control of the airplane if he did. In the author's world, the effort required to maintain situational awareness is viable evidence of why we should abandon basics in favor of electronics.   Amazingly though, the fact our society has accepted the notion of kids not knowing math because they have calculators leads me to admit he isn't alone in his thinking.  Of course, I must also point out that even Millennials find themselves openly asking if they are the dumbest generation ever to have lived on planet Earth. Ergo, who cares if a machine does it all for us?
Nice try.
I care; that's who.  And, I bet you do too.  To accept this notion is to give up aviation. To believe in it is to embrace that we'd all be better off if drones could take our adventures for us, taking pictures along the way, so that we could view virtual reproductions of what we could have seen with our own eyes before electronics were capable of doing it for us?  It's outright silly unless you see this editorial for what it really is. It's a piece written by a guy who should never have been brought into EAA.  It's not that he's a horrible person, he just doesn't belong. As my brother says, he's the kind of guy who would go on vacation in Alaska and then sit in his room looking at photos of of bushplanes flying around Alaska.  Real Sport Aviation types, on the other hand, would consider flying the bushplane the vacaction.  But you know what, there are places where this guy would be a perfect fit.  Lee Bottom isn't for everyone either.  I understand that.

Ages ago we held bomb drop contests every year. When the last one drew to a close, I named the winner and a UPS pilot went bananas.  He had not won and he was incredulous.  The fit he threw was worthy of a two year old.  He just couldn't grasp that he was the only person who gave a damn; it was meant to be fun.   And yet, I'm positive there is a formation clinic out there somewhere where he'd fit right in.  Like I said, we all have our place, and the author of the editorial is not in his.  In many ways, it's not even his fault.

How did he end up at EAA?  Strange things happen to organizations as they grow.  I think of our little field in the middle of nowhere.  We've always known who the people are who fly in.  The folks that land here are some of the most wonderful citizens you could ever hope to meet. They are the rare warbird pilot who lands here for the fun of it, the corporate pilot that stops by in a Citation because she was in the area, and the endless stream of aviators whose planes show the wear of unbridled flying pleasure. They make mistakes and admit them, take adventures and encourage you to do the same, offer help and expect nothing in return, take pride in their skill, and fly because it sets them free.  We understand that.   For a group the size of EAA that's difficult. But, it doesn't mean they don't try.  That's how they ended up with the author in question.
In an effort to boost the bottom line, EAA sought to develop "the big tent" philosophy. Famous for killing every niche that has ever tried it, it almost did the same to them. Build yourself into a giant machine and something has to feed it; money primarily.   When the niche decreases in size, you reach across the isle to the niches and riches outside your original focus. The core group doesn't like being forgotten and the new groups don't like that you're pandering. It's a stupid idea and yet people keep trying. EAA isn't the first and they won't be the last.  I just hope they've learned their lesson.
Looking to the future, and having fully digested the editorial this post is about, I can't help but believe the author will be gone soon.  Even EAA, the group that famously surrendered to paid ATC, can only handle a square peg in its round hole for so long.   Therefore, my only real concern is that when he leaves, he isn't replaced by a person from the Santa Monica City Council.


David M. Parker said...

Anyone who reads Sport Aviation knows who you're talking about, and I couldn't agree more. He's not a bad guy. I've read his articles in other flying publications, and somehow I felt less hostility towards him then, than when I see him writing in Sport Aviation. He fit well in those cookie-cutter, dentist-office-reading-material flying magazines. But not in my EAA magazine. I miss the EAA from 20 or so years ago. I sometimes wish I had the courage to start my own organization, patterned after EAA from days gone by. But EAA still IS the best we have, and I would rather channel my energy into making it work on a local chapter level, than to try to start something new.

Anonymous said...

I know the article, schooled and a little saddened myself. I too have followed his writing and have been a fan.

I look forward to next month when he tells us to park the plane so the drones will have more freedom in the sky.

Anonymous said...

And just what is wrong with the Santa Monica City Council? I mean, they're just not into flying (jets), man!

Ken Bittner said...

After reading that (one), it got me thinking...maybe you should be the one writing those Editorials Rich?
Ah...but then, that might cut back on your flying time.
Forget I mentioned it. Bad idea. Just keep doin what yer doin!

Anonymous said...

Even after the Hightower fiasco, I'm not sure EAA has learned its lesson.

I saw one of those famous VW "convertibles" running around Oshkosh last week. I don't remember the name on it. But I'll never forget the job position; "Vice President of Business Development". I think there something fundamentally wrong when an organization, such as the EAA, has a VP of BUSINESS development.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but is the EAA even a “business”? Should it be run like one?

Michael Dean

Anonymous said...

Rumor is that his departure is imminent. His rumored replacement could not be a better choice unless we could clone Jack Cox.
Jim Stanton

Rich Davidson said...

Hey Jim,
Why don't you email me and tell me who you hear is lying in queue. I am trying to think who would be as good as next to Jack.