Saturday, May 23, 2015

Somewhere Over the Pacific

There she is, the old girl in which I got my type.  I have had more than
one "memorable" run in with her and her memory.
Somewhere over the Pacific, during an uneventful flight to Anchorage, another FO attempts to describe something by showing me a picture.  As he scrolls through his phone looking for a specific image, I see something and blurt out, "Wait; go back?" He reverses direction, looks at me as if to ask, "This one?", and taps it for enlargement. "That's a Sabre bird," I say  He lights up.
"How do you know Sabre?"  Me, "I flew for Rhoades."  We're instantly like family. Both of us are from the last American generation of commercial DC-3 pilots .  The next minute would be one we'd surely remember.  Here's how it went.
Steve, the other FO, said, "I got my type in that plane."  Me, "I got my type also." Him, "AANNND (said with pride), I must be one of the last people to have also earned their ATP in the DC-3."  "Yeah? Me too!", I returned with growing volume.  Him, "Who did yours - McSwiggan (his de facto name) did mine."  "ME TOO!", I blurted out. Then, after a moment of silence, a moment of remembrance, we congratulated each other for surviving scrapyard freight and fooling enough people to get hired flying "the Whale".
Click here for photo credit page and more similar photos.
It's hard to adequately describe the surprise of discovering one of your own in an unexpected place. But to find a fellow "three" pilot while over the Pacific in a 747-8 makes the story that much better.   And although I know it probably doesn't mean much to him because we're likely just a grain of sand in his ocean, some part of me hopes that "McSwiggan" is proud of the monsters he created.   Many from our group may have been underfed cargo canines when he met us, but today we share a virtual secret handshake, fly to all corners of the world, and are proud to mention his name. Thanks Bob.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are You a Lite Reader or Do You Crave More?

How do you keep up with the latest in aviation?  Does most of your knowledge about the sport come from hangar flying sessions?  Or, do you get your news and insights from organization based magazines?  What about social media sites; do they fill most of your desires for "what's new?"  Are you someone who prefers to read the blogs? Have you ever even thought about it? If so, I have some questions.
Are your magazines something you can't put down or are they merely something you read because they feature aviation?  There is a difference.  Do you keep them with you like a good book, reading every word, or do they lie around only being read when you find yourself bored?

When it comes to social media sites, do their posts come wrapped in sensationalism only to be revealed as nothing more than weak attempts to fill "air time?"  And what about the depth of material; do the social media posts broaden your insight into aviation or do they merely serve as audio visual entertainment?
As for the blogs, what about them appeals to you?  Do they appeal to a specific interest you have, or are you attracted to the more in-depth discussions often found there?  It's probably something you never really think about, right?
I understand that asking where you get your news is like asking "at what time did you breath today?"  Most people just do what they do.  In this case though, I hope you'll take the time to read and consider my pitch.
Come on in.  The water's fine.
NORDO News offers a perspective on aviation you can't find anywhere else.  Our posts may be too risque for other aviation media outlets, but the majority of their editors read them. That's because we discuss what they wish they could.  It is for this reason, months after our posts have tested the waters, you'll often see them float the same subjects in watered down fashion. Save yourself the time.  Read NORDO News.  Sign up below.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Arsenal of Democracy - The Beginning or End?

With my current job, I have had the opportunity to observe many things about the world first hand.  Being an aviator bred with a passion for freedom, I look for these things when I am abroad.  Depending on the region and country, they can be difficult to find.  Elsewhere, signs of their existence can be located with dedicated searching. Yet,  no matter where you go, there is something incredibly obvious about them both; neither exists without the other.
Did you get that?  Aviation and freedom, neither exists without the other.  I wish I could find a way to drive that home to everyone in our sport.  For almost twenty years I've been expressing this belief to anyone who would listen.  Now that I've been able to travel globe, I can say it is not a belief, but fact.
Wherever you travel, watch the sky for general aviation.  If you don't see it, the country is not free.  Of course I should point out that it is possible, even without GA, for a country to give off the air of freedom.  Nations try very hard and spend millions of dollars to make their countries appear welcoming.  That's how freedom feels.  But, I've seen it time and time again and I can tell you that in free countries general aviation exists.  The more free, the more GA you will see and hear in the sky.  I simply cannot convey how true it is.
It is for this reason that we must not and cannot allow any further restrictions on aviation in America. To do so is to restrict freedom and to restrict freedom is to allow our country to fade into obscurity.  Therefore, and this may be hard to swallow, this means aviation's survival will be won or lost on the playing grounds of politics.

Sadly, that word "politics" is why many of our aviation leaders have no spine when it comes to this matter.  Aviation's existence depends on freedom and yet somehow freedom in our country is no longer American but an indicator of political affiliation.  When the heads of our groups look at the challenge of saving aviation, that's what they see.  Myself, I see it as a perfect and easily defined opportunity.

Aviation is so dependent on freedom, you can use it as an indicator.  Those who seek to restrict aviation, and those who complain about aviation, they are always and without fail the enemies of freedom. Those people, from both parties, must go and I have just given you a way to spot them.  When given the opportunity, always appose them and continually seek to replace them with people who understand and value freedom.
If we are to do what is necessary to save aviation, everyone in our sport must become fiercely motivated, political, and supportive of only those who value freedom above all else. Oooh, but that could be uncomfortable right? Well, that's the field the game is played on and it's time for you, all of you, all of us, to get off our collective asses and get this sorted out.  It won't be easy and it may take decades, but we have no other choice.  

That brings me to the Arsenal of Democracy Fly-Over of DC.  It was great wasn't it? Yeah, I thought so too.  Privately owned aircraft, which were once the most powerful weapons in the world, were flown over our capitol by private individuals and the world did not end.  Yes, everyone was properly vetted but you can't deny the fact that nothing but goodwill happened. Meanwhile, those who don't play by the rules can still fly right onto the lawn. Why is that? Because it's all bogus; that's why; we all know it.

Why do we continue to put up with it?  Fear of the government?  Your government? Push back.  If the Arsenal of Democracy Fly-Over is to have any meaning long term, it will come to be known as the first salvo in a long string of events coordinated to prove aviation and freedom go hand in hand.  But how do we do that?
Airplanes must be seen everywhere and they must be accompanied by the message of freedom.  When thirty planes fly over a football game the script given to the announcer must include a note that aviation and freedom go hand in hand.  When kids are taken for rides they must be educated that without freedom their ride would not be possible.  If a plane crashes and anyone from aviation speaks to the media, the first and only thing out of their mouth should be that aviation and freedom go hand in hand, and that where there is absolute safety there is no freedom.  Plant the seeds, plant them often, and sew them everywhere.
Photo credit:  Brady Lane
Don't expect someone else to do it.  It's up to you.  Continue to sit on your hands and events like the Arsenal of Democracy Fly-Over will have been nothing but cheap thrills for a few, and media ops for congressmen. That would be a crime and a massive opportunity lost.
During WWII, President Roosevelt famously proclaimed that the United State would be the "Arsenal of Democracy."  The machines that recently flew over DC came from that effort. Built for the purpose of returning freedom to people who had lost it to tyrannical governments, they naturally represent many things.  But let there be no doubt, the reason these machines were built was to return, protect, and promote liberty.   Never forget that.
I have no idea who came up with the name for the 70th Anniversary Fly-Over of DC, but I can say they hit a home run. Thanks to those who organized the event.  You set a great example.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Champs vs. Cubs - The Fly-In Challenge

If you took this photo, please message me and I'll credit you.

Photo credit:
Last year during the fly-in we held our first ever aircraft challenge; Stearmans vs. WACOs. Meant to be a light hearted battle among old foes, when the day was over the Stearmans had won and the WACOs were left empty handed.  Of course, so were the winners.  Bragging rights are more valuable anyway.  Plus, trophies cost money.
Fortunately, nobody got mad about the lack of a physical award and everyone seemed to have fun with it.  Therefore, we have decided to have another challenge during this year's event.  It will be the much anticipated, decades in the coming, face-off between Champs and Cubs.  Yes, you heard that right.  We're finally going to settle this dispute right here at Lee Bottom in September.
How will the winner be decided?  Just like last year; the group with the most planes on hand wins.  Of course, the variations of Champ and Cub models are numerous so look forward to the final rules soon.  Right now we're considering any Champ and Cub model up through 1953 (including L models), with the other manufacturer's taildraggers serving as tie breakers.   For example, if there was a tie between Cubs and Champs, planes such as Chiefs or Super Cubs would count toward the tie breaker.  But again, look for the final rules soon.
As for you Champ and Cub owners, and Aeronca and Piper owners, we hope you'll take this opportunity to stand up for the honor of your plane and fly it to the challenge. It should be fun and make for some great memories and photographs.

Another Old Friend Gone

Here I am with Roy and the Eagle just before its last flight.  That plane was perfect.
Although I never knew Roy Foxworthy well enough to write pages about his life, I did, for a period of time, come to know him as an aviation friend.  He was kind, smart minded, and someone I always enjoyed visiting.  Being part of a larger group of friends I now rarely see, I was saddened to learn of his passing through second hand channels.
As you can read in his obituary, Roy was a fascinating man who wore many hats. When it came to our friendship though, it was based solely on aviation.  He was an avid aviator, homebuilder, and restorer. Among his projects was a Christen Eagle that was destined to be an EAA Reserve Grand Champion Kit Built, and his rare Johnson Rocket which he restored.
When Roy began to wind down his affairs so he could truly enjoy retirement, he called me to see if I was up for doing him a favor.  I was honored to be asked.  A few weeks later I flew his Reserve Grand Champion on its final flight.  When I landed his masterpiece, Kalamazoo had a new aircraft.  Before that though, Roy gave me another great experience.
The summer before, Air Classics was in the area covering all the cool old machines available for viewing when Roy offered to let me fly his Johnson Rocket.  I found it to be a great airplane and the workmanship he had put into its restoration top notch.  It was a real treat and something few others ever got to experience.  I'll never forget it.
Thanks Roy.  You contributed much to the world of aviation, and for whatever reason you left me with a handful of treasured memories.

Heaven Has a Beautiful Sky

Heading away from home, seven years ago I drove uncharacteristically slow as I headed for St. Louis and a check-ride.  It was very cold that day and I drove out by the back way in hopes of better traction as I went up the hill.  There, somewhere after the asphalt turns to gravel, about where an old barn stands, I locked eyes with something which was obviously out of place.
Having just moved out of my way, and stopped to observe my passing from the weeds, was a beautiful Border Collie.  Sometimes you lock eyes with someone, or in this case an animal, and you just know their story.  I could tell hers was one of homelessness and a desire to connect.  If she was to survive the January cold, she needed it.  And just as some of the greatest directors have portrayed important moments in life, when I drove by our eyes met and time seemed to slow down.  I knew she needed someone but my family needed me to pass my check-ride.  I continued.
All day, even during the check-ride itself, I thought about the beautiful dog I had seen abandoned in the cold.  It’s common in our area for heartless rednecks to set out the Christmas gift dogs they can’t afford because of their need for beer, cigarettes, and four-wheel lift kits.  But, this dog was not what you typically see “set out”.  She wasn’t a pit-something, beagle half-breed, or abused lab which is so commonly seen wandering and wondering where their family went.  No, this was a well bred canine - a princess dropped in the hood.
When I finished my check ride I called home from the car.  Driving away after a successful sim session feels like you were just released from a death sentence so the mood is good.  Ginger and I said our hellos and I asked what she was up to.  She said, “I’m petting Sky”.  Right then, I was sure I knew what had happened, but I still asked, “You’re doing what?”  To which she replied, “I’m petting Sky.”  “Who is Sky”, I asked slowly.  And that’s when she told me the story.  She had been inside, Ace had barked, she went out to see what he was barking about, and there was a super-skittish but beautiful Border Collie that wanted to trust her but just couldn’t.
Ginger with Sky (foreground) and Ace, watching our Gullwing fly away.
It then took her a significant portion of the day sitting outside with food to finally get the dog to come to her to eat.  Sky, as she was now named, had obviously been on her own and was extremely nervous.  Yet, Ginger persisted, and before the sun went down we had a visitor in our home.
Unbelievably, that same dog I had seen in the weeds had made it a few miles down the road to the one house that would take her in, then managed to do something to arouse the ears of Ace, who in turn barked in that certain way that told Ginger to investigate.  When I got home, there was that beautiful dog I had seen on my way out that morning.

For almost two weeks we tried to find her owners.  We were sure she was lost because nobody would set out such a wonderful canine.  We are the only ones around here who would ever have such a breed, and anyone else who might have such a dog would care enough to find her a home if for some reason they couldn’t keep her.  But, no matter how far away we asked, we couldn’t find an owner.  We did though find people who had seen her stealing food to survive.  We would later find out, during one of her vet visits, she had also been shot.
At this point, I have to admit that knowing Sky needed a good home did not mean I thought we needed another dog.  Each day we set out to look for the owners I hoped to find some little heartbroken kid whose day would be made when they discovered their puppy had been found.  It never happened.  In fact, toward the end, I must also admit that I was praying nobody would claim her.
Having been on her own, she was an emotional mess, but I was growing more attached to her by the minute.  Then, at somewhere around ten days of searching, without openly discussing it, Ginger and I both quit looking.  She was ours and a person would have to use force to take her away.
That's how she slept.  
Looking back on it she really was a mess.  For whatever reason, all of her legs would move non-stop whenever she wasn’t standing on them.  She ate fast like a thief and took food from others whenever she could.   Trash was something she sought out and tore through often.  Sadly, there was also a fear in her indicative of being beaten and she was so incredibly nervous and hyper teaching her anything was difficult.  This would earn her the nickname, “Hyper-Skyper.” 
We started with the legs.  Over time we got her to stop moving them with the command “four on the floor”.  The more she trusted us the more she learned.  Next was the food.  We struggled with that one for a long time.  She was scolded for bad, positively reinforced for good, and made to feel like an honest to God princess when she would leave trash alone.  The addition of a bowl made to slow down eating finally put to rest her frantic feasting.  Unbelievably, she even began to lay down by her bowl and eat one morsel at a time.  After that, Ginger bought her a bowl that said “Princess.”
Where are those moles?
During those early years one thing did come easy to her though.  She loved to ride in a vehicle.  Sure, she loved to bark at every squirrel and rabbit that crossed our path but she also did not want to be left behind.  That’s understandable, and although her excitement was almost unbearable at times, it still made us smile and she went whenever possible, often to the airport.
Exploding out of the truck, she would bolt straight to a mole run.  I can’t count the number of times I yelled at her for digging.  It drove me insane and yet I understood.  She hated those moles worse than I did.  You could see the excitement in her stance as she feverishly dug for them.  It is for this reason I’m sure Ginger was often puzzled when I told her not to get worked up over Sky digging the holes in my beloved aircraft parking area.   I’m sorry Ginger, even when she was bad I loved everything about her.
Did I mention she could jump?  Oh my God could she ever.  Out of nowhere she’d bound over the end of our bed, four feet high, and right into the covers with us.  Every morning, without fail, there she would fly onto the mattress.  If she didn’t, something was wrong.  That brings me to another critical piece of her story.  She was a daddy’s girl.

I have no idea why, but at some point it became obvious to everyone that there was a special connection between us.  She would jump in bed and work me like a con-man works his mark.  Always demanding more head scratching and always getting it.  If I refused, she’d nudge her nose into my hand, lift up my arm, and pet her own head with it.  She also did something else I could never get over.
Whenever we’d come home she would always be there at the door.  And when I came home from long trips she did the same.  In those instances though, the other two dogs and the cat would lean against me and wag their tails with the expectation of some attention.  But Sky, she would sit down in the middle of all of them and stare into my eyes with more focus than I am capable of describing.  Her unblinking giant brown eyes, combined with an absolute silence and stillness, seemed to say “look at me daddy; I’m the one that really loves you.”  And, it always worked.
There was also this one other thing she did that always made Ginger’s eyes roll.  From the other side of the room you could see it coming.  Sky would get a look in her eyes and across the floor she would fly up into my arms in my lap.  Ginger would stare at us with comical disbelief and say, “That’s pathetic.”  It was hilarious and true.  She was as much a part of our lives as any dog could be.
Thankfully, after years of hard work, Sky no longer flailed her legs, got into trash, ate like a fiend, or distrusted everyone.  Even better though, her desire to learn new things developed.  She would wait to eat until we told her “OK eat”, she could sit, lie down, roll over, go right, “crush balls” (Ginger’s call to have her jump in my lap), and toward the end she finally learned to speak.
I have no idea why that command was so hard for her because Ginger had easily taught her to call our other pets home with the phrase “Call’em home little girl.”  Ginger would tell her this command and yell “Heeeyyyy”, as if she was trying to call the other dogs, and the little girl would tilt her head back and bark until Ginger told her “OK, CUT”.  It was hilarious to watch.  When Ace was around, he’d get in on it too.

So much fun.
Being a Border Collie she also loved to run.  Man was she ever wicked fast.  But something was clearly wrong from the first day we found her.  Although she could run with incredible speed and grace for maybe two hundred feet, she would then plop down due to exhaustion.   This greatly concerned us and we had every test known to man run on her.  At one point she was even hooked up to a heart monitor for several days.  Nothing could ever be found to explain it.
Then, about a month ago, she started to randomly limp and at times would not jump.  She loved to jump, “pop wheelies” as we called it, and when she quit jumping we knew something was wrong.  Shortly thereafter she tested positive for a bacterial infection and we thought it would be an easy fix.  But two weeks later, when I was away on a trip, Ginger called to let me know Sky couldn’t move.  Our little girl was in very bad shape and Ginger wasn't much better.  That’s when it was discovered she had cancer of the blood vessels and the prognosis was not good.  It had made it to her liver.
Emergency room vets being emergency room types, they pushed two options; cut or kill.  Gotta fix whatever is wrong.  They pushed really hard for Ginger to put her down right then.  If you can’t cut to fix, then she’s a goner so you are irresponsible to not put her down - that is the message she got. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and she brought my little girl home.  That’s when Ginger’s incredible love for Sky came charging through.
Sky may have been a daddy’s girl, but momma loved and enjoyed her just as much.  And thanks to Ginger’s farm skills, Sky was given another 8-10 really good days.  Some of them were so good we had to restrain her from jumping to keep her from injuring herself.  Fortunately, they also happened to be days I was home.  Then the final downturn came.
Not feeling well...
Yesterday (May 16th) Sky once again began to bleed internally and became very weak.  Ginger and I both knew this was it.  I took her for one last walk.
Seeing me put my shoes on always excited Sky and this time it gave her a burst of energy that got her out the door.  A few stops later and we were off the deck into the grass.  There she lay down from exhaustion.  I grabbed a chair and sat down beside her.
It was a beautiful cool night of 75 degrees and a strong breeze blew through the trees.  Leaves rustling in the wind added a sound like that of waves breaking on a beach.  Behind us distant lightning from approaching storms flashed as lightning bugs randomly did so in front of us.  All the little critters sang their songs.  She loved it outside and together we sat there soaking up the moment and all the fleeting life around us.  An hour was gone in a heartbeat.
Front to back - Bair, Ace, and Sky
When we left the house the next morning, Sky couldn’t even get one foot into the car.  I lifted her up, tenderly trying to make sure her last hour on Earth was painless.  I have no idea how long I had gone without breathing, but when I sat down in the front seat I shut the door, let out a long deep painful sigh, and put the car in reverse.  That’s all I could do before my head collapsed into my hands.
We live in a country where not too long ago every family could expect to lose a child.  Today we have it so good many of us can’t handle the loss of a dog.  I’m ok with that.  The time will come that I will be over it and life will go on.  When I look back, I will be thankful that this wonderful little Border Collie, named Sky, was part of my life.  She made me feel more like a parent than I ever had before or ever shall again.  Her presence added purpose to an otherwise meaningless existence and we gave her the best home she could ever hope for in exchange.  She offered me love; I gave love back; and it’s true - we were pathetic.
What a wonderful dog she was.

****Thanks to my wonderful wife Ginger who brought this beautiful little girl into our home and took such good care of her.  You may have known her as "daddy's little girl" but I know she rarely let you out of her sight.

Ginger posted the following "lessons" online the next day.

Lessons from Sky:
• Find the place that welcomes you and call it home
• Be cautious of people; but love those who love you back
• Test the limits and find the boundaries
• Endure through the pain
• There are bad people in life. Rid yourself of them.
• Ask for attention – you’re worth it
• Scrappiness ensures you have food on the table
• Life really is all about you
• If you are excited about something, jump up and down and let the world know about it
• Run hard, play hard, work hard and then rest before doing it again
• If someone gets in your space, tell them about it
• Everything tastes better with cheese
• The middle child gets the hand me downs - but that’s alright
• Get a facial whenever you can (Gilmore would clean Sky's face every morning)
• Stay alert at all times
• Persistence is the key to getting what you want
• Go to the right, the left just doesn’t seem to work
• Call ‘em home at the end of the day
• Life is short, enjoy it to its fullest

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Here's to You...

Here's to all to all the people out there who defy the bounds of sanity and financial responsibility to host events for aviators and aviation enthusiast. You're all crazy as hell and I am thankful for that. Without that one loose screw there would be no events to attend.
When the people have come, enjoyed, and gone, they may not understand all that you sacrificed to provide them a venue for entertainment, but I do. Never undersell yourself. You are giving aviation more, both physically and financially, than 99% of people in the sport.  Aviation should embrace you and expect to give something in return and you should never be ashamed to ask for it.  You are not twisting the screws on aviation. You are merely asking aviation to give you the basic courtesy it would give anyone else providing such a valuable service.
That said, here's to a great summer of ignoring reason in favor of flight.

Fort Parker Flying Field - A great field you may have never heard of.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Will a Crime be Committed Against This Mustang

Click here to see the auction webpage.
If there is any imagination or passion left in the world of aviation, someone will save this "survivor."  Stored away for ages, it is now going to a court ordered auction. That means someone soon will own this rarest of rare P-51s.  If it's you, please save it AS IS.
I suppose I should explain what I mean by "survivor."  In the world of automotive collecting, sterilizing everything with new paint and restorations isn't always good. Finding a vehicle that has been stored away for ages which can also be made roadworthy is considered a real find. No longer do new owners immediately envision a total restoration when they find these machines. 
Today's enlightened owners wish instead to honor a machine's history by displaying it in a manner that expresses what the car truly was and still is; a treasure.  Therefore, they bring the mechanical underpinnings up to speed but leave everything they can as it was found.   That's what someone must do with this Mustang.
This P-51 shows Mustangs the way they spent a majority of their lives, as private aircraft.   That civilian paint scheme is therefore an important window into its history. It is a "survivor" and it should be left that way.
I can only pray that it is found by someone with money and a conscience; someone who instead of wishing to feed their ego with a military paint scheme, can preserve its history for the viewing pleasure of the public.  It would be a crime to do anything else.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Ship of Theseus

The Ship of Theseus, ever heard of it?  It’s a subject of philosophical debate which reaches back through the centuries.  The key question being, “If every piece of a ship is replaced, is it still the same ship?”  Sound familiar?
If you’ve been involved with aviation for any amount of time, you have experienced this conversation.  The sport of flight may consist of everything from powered parachutes to private jets but everyone loves vintage planes.  It’s natural.  Aviators are inherently sentimental creatures, and every old flying machine is a potential subject of attachment.  The heart of a romantic knows no boundaries.
But why would someone feel connected to an object?  This too is a common subject of debate.  And yet, it also holds the answer to so many of aviation’s recent dwindlings.  If you understand it, things begin to make sense.  Solutions are easy.  We’ll get to that in a minute.
Have you ever felt an attachment to an object?  Yeah?  Me too.  It’s always been with something which has a story to be told.  Perhaps that is why another popular version of The Ship of Theseus is George Washington’s Axe.  If the handle has been replaced five times, and the head three, is it still George Washington’s Axe?

The greatest minds of philosophy have debated this through the ages, with each era having its own version.  Amazingly though, with all that power of mind, the debate rages?  Or does it?  I think not.
The solution is lies in the soul.
It's the same - No it isn't
How the greatest noggins in history could argue over such trivial things as planks of wood, and axe heads of steel, perplexes me.  There is no doubt in my mind it is the soul which makes something what it is, a ship of new timbers still the same ship. 
It’s why a lady, covered with the wrinkles of age, can radiate more beauty than a new model molded in ivory; how a threadbare coat can warm you like no other; the explanation for a vintage plane exposing, or metal alloy, but expressions of a soul.

Don’t believe me?  How then can it be that today we all still exist when there is not a single cell in our bodies that was with us when we were born?  We are walking, talking, breathing examples of The Ship of Theseus.  Every building block of our bodies has been replaced over and over. Yet, we are still here.  Clearly therefore, it is the soul which makes us who we are, something what it is.
So how then does this philosophical debate point the way to solutions for aviation’s problems?  Just as George Washington’s Axe is still his axe if the components were replaced due to the cutting of trees, aviation only exists when it exists as it was intended.
Before human flight came to be, people did not need to fly, they wanted to.  It was born from yearning, not necessity.  More specifically, it was bred from the desire to fly like the birds, escape the chains of earth, and experience the ultimate freedom.  Noted authors of the day described it well.  Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry possibly said it best, “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.”

Saint-Ex did not express that he flew because it got him from A to B in the shortest amount of time.  The famous author did not become a pilot because it was given to him freely or because it was the cool thing to do.  Instead, he looked deep into its eyes, saw the soul of the sport, and was captivated.  That is why his works are so cherished.  He felt the spirit of aviation and honored it. Today, we do not.

Have you ever wondered why it is that, as you walk down a line of vintage aircraft, some seem to reach out and grab you while other similar examples do not?  Humans have an acute but often unacknowledged perception of soul.  They can feel history and a sense of purpose.  They can also detect when something is gone.

The bones, in this case the airframe, are merely the vessel for the spirit of the machine.  Take away the spirit and you remove the soul.  This is what we’ve done to aviation and it is why some airplanes don’t “talk to you.”
We focus on the machine, electronics, flight plans, and safety.  None of these were intended for flight.  Airspace, regulations, and rules weren’t either.  That’s why aviation flourished before the CAA (predecessor to the FAA) and why in this hour it dwindles.  We are tossing the soul in favor of the bones.

Use an old plane as it was intended and it is alive.  It’s a ship sailing waters or an axe cutting trees.  Park it on epoxy, exchange charts for GPS, never fly it for fear of a breakdown, and it is dead.  To cross flat pastures or remote country roads without landing is a stab to its heart.  Fly straight and level, never allowing it go to bed dirty, and you’re denying it pleasure.  Don a helmet, wrap yourself in Nomex, and pull on the gloves and you’re treating it as a machine to be feared, not one to be enjoyed.   Restrict it from flight to ensure its safety and you’ve stolen a cool breeze from its skin. Planes and aviation must exist as they were intended or they are no longer that which they were.  If we understand this and accept it, we can fix aviation.

Where do we start?  To begin with we can trash the narrative of safety first.  Everything that was ever been great has been destroyed by the emotion of fear.  It is irrational, seizes our will, and consumes, from the inside out, all that it touches.  Aviation was the strongest when the danger was at its peak.  Just as there is no good without bad, a thing is not alive if there is no chance of death.
That’s not to say planes were designed to be dangerous.  They were designed to stretch the dimensions of our lives.  Put fear first, remove all risk, and you’ve removed their purpose.  One cannot experience a roller coaster from the ground, view the Grand Canyon from a quarter mile back, or enjoy the thrill of aviation when every conversation is about how to survive.
Next, we can make it a point to recognize those who live aviation the way it was meant to be.  No longer should we honor pilots for their fame or the creators of safety devices which remove flight from the equation.  Placing those who prefer to manage the decline of aviation on a pedestal should also be a thing of the past.
Instead, we must find the people who embody the true meaning of the sport. People who aren’t paralyzed by weather, folks who can fly without electronics, and pilots working two jobs to keep a homebuilt stitched together are perfect examples.  If you can find any of these traits in a person who also understands a plane can fly without a radio, you have your winner.  As for our leaders, only those who are willing to face the Hydra of regulators head on, with a constant force of pushback, should ever have their names spoken in public.

In regards to the flying Ships of Theseus, only those which are operated in a manner that honors their intent, and are restored and flown until they cease to exist should ever be given awards.   A sterile reflection of what was should never trump a flying machine that is.
And finally, when it comes to the most important factor in repairing aviation, you and me, we must consciously decide to embrace life, risk, and the pursuit of flight.  Never should we seek to restrict aviation due to the misfortune or mistakes of others.  The act of mourning the death of a fellow aviator must instead be practiced, nurtured, and learned to be celebrated as evidence of a person who lived.  A soul will wither and die if what it’s fed is fear.  If flying is to survive, we must instead feed ours the true spirit of aviation.