Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Finding Your People

Sitting on the ramp at Reno.
Finding your people is important.   If you have no opinions, enjoy the taste of white chocolate and dark, don’t really care what kind of car you drive, and find yourself easily entertained, you’re lucky.  “Your people” come in one dimension; those who breathe.  If you’re like me though, deep down inside, you know somewhere out there your people exist and for them you’re always searching.

Tom and Betty Jane doing their thing.
Does that make sense to you?  How about this?  Have you ever felt like you were dropped on this planet from somewhere else?  Has the question, “Who are these people?” ever crossed your mind?  Do you get it now?  Yeah, I bet some of you know precisely what I’m talking about.
Nice view.
If you’re still not getting it, I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression.  It’s not my belief that any other group of people is inferior or less likeable.  OK wait, that’s not true.  Folks who like white chocolate, those people concern me.  But, for the most part I’m sticking to my story; different people are an interesting and valuable part of life.  When it comes to my people though, to me they feel like home.

Who are “my people?”  I’d love to tell you. Unfortunately, nailing down a description is difficult.  But, I guess after all that I have to try.
Biologists often spend their lives looking for new species without success.  Being able to nail down distinct differences is critical to the process.  Unfortunately, to identify most new creatures you have to deal with traits that aren’t visible to anyone but the most observant.  Although, the fact they fit into nearly any environment without appearing obvious should be the first sign to someone really sharp. Those are my people

Produced without a mold, to the eye they seem an unlikely species.  From afar their surface is random.  Yet, through a microscope their DNA seems cloned.  To them, titles are unimportant to the point of embarrassment.  They do not dress to indicate who they are, “a seat” is something to be shared, and they don’t fly for the sake of others.  There are of course more characteristics but the ones mentioned are for a reason. 

Late last year I was invited to fly with The Collings Foundation.  It may be hard to believe but at the time I actually knew very little about the group.  Years ago I wrote off warbirds as I focused furiously on flying every vintage aircraft I could find.  The downside to that was that in the process I fell out of touch with the “heavy iron” community.   Unfortunately, being aviation omnivorous, that became a problem.  Over time, my life began to feel like a dinner of meat with no potatoes.  Something had to be done.

When I couldn’t ignore my passion for big metal any longer, I did a little digging.  A short time later I asked the one person I knew within the foundation how a person could get involved.  He told me to send my resume, and soon after, I had the invite.  Thanks Ryan.

Amazingly, as much of an airplane nut I am, it took me until June to make it out on the tour to meet the group.  I regret that.  When I got there I was pleased.  Looking across that crowd, it was impossible to tell who the members were.  That’s always a good sign. 
As the day played out I couldn’t help but notice the wide range of folks involved.  Some were quiet, others not-so much, a few were from the South, others from California and the Midwest, and the rest arrived from places far and wide.  They spoke with different accents, held different points of view, ranged from 19 to (?), and seemed to have no connection other than the planes.  Ah yes, the planes, there’s the connection.  On the surface the people represented a cross-section of America.  Underneath they were all pretty much the same.
Railroad Mike never stops moving.
There in one place was a great group of folks who loved the old flying machines but shared no interest in aviation politics.  There was no fashion show, no grandstanding, and no parting of the waters when certain members of the group walked through.  And although due respect was held for leadership, it was obvious no salutes or other methods of acknowledgment were expected.

Everyone was on site to share the history of the planes with America, keep them flying, and have a good time doing it.   That’s my people; a team of enthusiasts accomplishing a task with no temperament for bullshit.  What else could you ask for?
Thanks again to everyone at The Collings Foundation for inviting me into the family.  I had a great time, was made to feel at home, and will most certainly be back to help out.  My experience left me energized and reminded me of a once beloved part of aviation I had written off to time.
Nectar of the Gods

Random notes from the trip:
1. I went on the trip planning to fly the B-24 and fell in love with the B-25.  So natural and intuitive (once you get the brakes), I couldn’t help but want more.  As for the B-24, although I ended up not flying it that much, I found it to be less of an animal than everyone makes it out to be.  I’ll discuss the planes more in the future.

2. On the second day I asked one of the pilots for a cockpit checkout in the B-24Being new, I had no interest in looking like a fool when it came time to fly.  The guy enthusiastically said yes and took me straight to the plane.  Sitting in the cockpit I received one of the best checkouts I’ve ever had.  To the point, it was what I needed to know and stated in a manner that made sense.  Who the guy was or what his background was of no concern to him or me and neither was mine.  From the get go it was merely a fellow aviator helping another aviator.  When I later found out he was only 19 I was stunned and had to laugh.  I was stunned because he was knowledgeable and relaxed well beyond his age, and I laughed because I was happy to see the group had such a person as part of the group.

3. The same night as the group was eating, I exchanged brief conversation with the chief pilot, Jim Harley.  When he mentioned having an interest in even older planes, the conversation broadened.  Eventually it came around to I want to fly this – “Me too,” I said.  Then it was I know someone who has that – me too.”  Next it was “He said he’d let me fly it – me too.”   And before long I had to stop and ask, “Wait, who are you talking about?”   – MEEE TOOOOO.  It was hilarious.  That’s when I found out our mutual acquaintance had been part of the Collings clan for a long time.  I couldn’t believe it.  It knew right then I was going to have fun.  Mutual friends, mutual interests, and a shared passion for hilarity.  And who could ever forget the peacock feathers conversation?  My God I could barely breathe I was laughing so hard. 
Jimmy's reaction to my flying.  Couldn't quite tell if it was
terror or amazement.  Judging by the screams though, I'm going
with terror.
I have a fun story for everyone I met during the week. Pilots, mechanics and organizers were an equal and enjoyable part of the group.  There were so many fun moments.  Next time I'll get to theirs.

The last thing I would like to share about my experience is something I noticed during the week.  There is a large generation of “descendants of WWII” who view these planes as a connection to long lost family members.  The Greatest Generation may be almost gone but those they’re leaving behind want to be good sheperds of history.  They may not be pilots, mechanics, or even enthusiasts but they certainly understand the importance of these machines and find great peace is supporting and being around them.  In fact, I was describing this to Ginger the other night at dinner.  Then, today I see someone posted this link online.  It is exactly what I was thinking after my time with the foundation.  Click here to read it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Show Off!

Have you ever heard that?  I hope not.  Of course, if that statement does describe you and you haven't heard it, there's a pretty good chance it's only because nobody wants to be the one to break the news.
It's an odd thing about aviation that doing the right thing is the surest way to make you an outcast.  Point out a glaring issue and you won't be thanked.  Most likely you'll lose a friend or be shunned from the group.
I can say from experience, this is a very difficult position in which to find yourself. Today people want to be cool, gravitate to nonsense, and most certainly do not want you to rain on their fantasy parade.  Even if what you have to say is about to save their lives, people do not want to hear it.  You're the idiot, right up to the point things go bad.

When that happens, if you didn't say anything you can feel guilt for keeping quiet. When it happens and you did say something, you feel disgust at your friend or acquaintance for not listening to you.  But, at least you tried.  Most people do will not and I'm learning why.
This problem was presented to me once again earlier in the year.  When it happened I decided not to say anything.  I'm starting to realize who my friends are and the rest, I've decided, aren't worth the penalty that comes with caring enough to speak up.
Amazingly though, it's not just me who feels this way.  Anyone who has spent their lives around aviation knows exactly what I am talking about.  Aggravating isn't it?

Here's how it goes.  A friend sees you standing there watching events unfold, they walk up to your side, stare straight ahead, lean in your direction, and say in a low voice, "Are you watching this?"  A quick nod is all that's required to answer.  The next few minutes are then spent talking about the flying dead, how it will not help to speak up, and that all you can do is shake your head.  That's a shame.  It's also true.
As for me, like I said, I'm getting better.   Now, unless they are a close friend, I just let people go on about the business of killing themselves. Yet, sometimes that comes with other problems. What about when they are endangering others?
Having attended multiple events in the past year which had someone who was completely out of control in close proximity to people, I finally decided it might be a good time to approach the subject again.  Here goes.
If you are at a fly-in, do not do aerobatics.  I have no idea why people can't seem to get that through their heads but it does nothing but set the stage for disaster.   Crash, crash and kill others, crash and live, and everything in your life is going to go to hell. Additionally, the people holding the event will be raked over the coals for your actions. If they are friends of yours, have the courtesy to not put them in this position.  The average person is just as happy with a 100' fly-by as they are with you turning upside down. Don't be a show off.
When you are at an airshow or fly-in, be on your very best behavior.  These are the most difficult times for show-offs to maintain composure.  Therefore, if this is you, use the moment to practice being the least obvious person at the event.  The added benefit will be the good example you set for others.
Finally, if you take someone flying who you like, find interesting, know to be a person of importance, or anything else, do not be screwing around with them in the plane.   Kill them and you'll be forever remembered as the person who did it and nothing more.
Finally, I can't help but notice everyone getting excited about the Mosquito coming to Oshkosh. With that in mind, I think it is important to point out one of the main reasons there wasn't an airworthy example for many years.  What was it?  A pilot who was DICKING AROUND AT AN AVIATION EVENT is what it was; someone who should not have been doing what they were doing.  See the video above.
In fact, most of the warbirds and old planes we have lost in recent years have been due to that same reason.  Yeah, I realize the pilots are often cherished members of the aviation community.  Therefore, don't let their deaths go to waste.  DICKING AROUND IN THESE OLD PLANES WILL KILL YOU AND THE MACHINES.  Learn from their mistakes and don't repeat them.  The added bonus to this is that many of us will be able to sleep at night because you didn't die.
Got it?  I hope so.  This crap is getting old.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Are Your Groups Really Fighting For You? Part 3

In part 2 of, "Are Your Groups Really Fighting For You," I pointed out how AOPA's conflict of interest has them pushing ADS-B units rather than fighting back against the FAA.  At the end of that, I also said I was going to tell you what AOPA would be doing if they really were on your side.  Here it is.

East of the Rockies we have many unnecessary burdens wearing on grass roots aviation. Four that come to mind are the Class B airspaces surrounding St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh airports.  Add ADS-B to the mix and these wedding cakes from hell will become dams to the free flow of aviation traffic.  If I were running AOPA, the organization would be fighting to remove them.
These giant obstacles to aviation are outdated, unnecessary, and the time has come to put them to bed.  Containing approximately 2800 square miles of airspace which will be off limits to aircraft without ADS-B, these areas, once friendly to general aviation, serve no purpose but to discourage it.
Why are they there?  During the good times of the dot com explosion in the 90s and derivative driven home equity spending in the 2000s, everything, including aviation traffic, exploded.  The FAA, always in search of an opportunity to grab airspace, did a few quick counts, generated some wild predictions of continued growth, sprinkled in a little fear of 9/11, and claimed them as Class B.  A few short years later, it all came crashing down.

Today these airports are relative ghost-towns; urban blight aviation style.  They don’t even come close to meeting the criteria for Class B and almost surely never will again.  The demographics have changed, as have the structure of the airlines which served them.  Their glory days are behind, yet the damage their Class Bs incur on general aviation remain.  It’s time to change that.
Cincinnati Class B.   It restricts the flow of GA traffic in and out of
many airports. Without the Class B, the pink area would be
open to all small GA planes. That is roughly 2800 square miles.
Figure in the 3rd dimension of altitude and you get close to
3500 cubic milesof airspace that is restricted to General Aviation.
And this is just one unnecessary Class B.

Let's start the ball rolling with a short discussion on the criteria for Class B? I have included the FAA's guidelines below. They are taken directly from an FAA publication.
15-2-1. CRITERIA
a. The criteria for considering a given airport as a candidate for a Class B airspace designation must be based on factors that include the volume of aircraft, the number of enplaned passengers, and the type/nature of operations being conducted in the area.
b. For a site to be considered as a new Class B airspace candidate, the following criteria must be met:
1. The primary airport serves at least 5 million passengers enplaned annually;
2. The primary airport has a total airport operations count of 300,000 (of which at least 240,000 are air carriers and air taxi); and
Operation counts are available from the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, Statistics and Forecast Branch, APO-110. Enplaned passenger counts may be obtained by contacting the Office of Airport Planning and Programming Division, APP-1. Current validated counts are normally available in mid-October of the current year for the previous year.
3. The Class B designation will contribute to the efficiency and safety of operations, and is necessary to correct a current situation or problem that can not be solved without a Class B designation.
The above is the minimum criteria. It should be noted that when the criteria for the establishment of a Class B airspace area is met, it is merely an indication that the facility is a candidate for further study.
c. Although an airport meets the minimum passenger and air traffic operations criteria for a Class B designation, other factors must be considered, such as: would a Class B designation contribute to the efficiency and safety of operations in the area: and is there a current situation or problem that cannot be solved without the designation of Class B airspace.
Did you expect them to be more complicated?  I know I did.  After reading them though, I was please they boiled down to two important items.  First, an airport must have at least a total of 300,000 annual operations, with a minimum of them being 240,000 air carrier or taxi operations. Next, even if an airspace meets the criteria, those data points only determine if an airspace needs more study.  It does not mean, even at those levels, a Class B is needed or required.  

The pink area is all the area a plane without ADS-B will have to avoid.  Yet, CVG
doesn't even meat the criteria for Class B airspace.
So where do we sit with the four airports I mentioned earlier?  They don't even come close to meeting the criteria for Class B airspace?  Furthermore, their previous traffic counts show no sign of returning?  But, have you heard so much as a peep from any of our groups about removing them?  I think it's time we do.

Thanks to Ed Roo for finding this graphic and helping me locate links
to FAA sites which allowed me to verify what I suspected.  This
graphic shows BNA (Nashville) which the FEDS attempted to take
in the 90s.  It also is missing the numbers for Detroit but I think you
get the picture.  There exists a handful of Class Bs, and quite possibly more,
which need to be removed.  Why are our groups not addressing them?

If you would like to look up your airport to see if it meets the minimum criteria for Class B airspace, go to this link (click here).  I would not be surprised to learn there are more.  Let me know if you find any others.

Before I close this out, I would like to discuss a few final points.  It's important to remember that the majority of America's population resides withing 30 miles of large cities.  This means the majority of airports lie within the same area.  Therefore, every Class B that exists does a disproportionate amount of damage to aviation.  They cannot be seen merely as umbrellas for commercial aviation.  They must be viewed for what they are, a blight on aviation, both the sport and industry.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this question.  How many Class Bs, Cs and Ds are there out there which do not meet their minimum criteria and how many others just barely meet the numbers but don't warrant them?  I would bet you it is at least 30% of the total.

And don't forget, all that airspace is, or easily could be, subject to ADS-B in the future. Yet, these spaces almost always contain the airports of grass roots aviation.   Therefore, addressing them should be a priority for aviation alphabet groups.  But then again, their cronies (every group has them) wouldn't like that would they?

Follow this link (click here) to research the rules of B, C, and D airspace.  Then go to this link (click here) to check traffic counts.  Let me know what you find.  If nothing else, it will be educational.

Monday, June 15, 2015

HELP! Fly-In Organization Volunteers needed.

Your help is appreciated.
The time has come again to begin preparations in earnest for the fly-in at Lee Bottom.  As we look forward to the event, as always, the major hurdle is volunteers.  If you’re thinking “They always have plenty of volunteers,” when it comes to the grunts (affectionately named) that make it all happen, we usually do have quite a few.  But when we talk about a shortage of volunteers, we mean the people who are willing to take charge of a portion of the event and do what it takes to get everything in place and ready.  Those folks are always difficult to come by.  We do have a few but we really need more.
Across society, most people think they want to do something until they see how much time and effort is involved.  I understand everyone is busy.  I get it.  But, if you're up for it, we really could use some folks for these positions.
All the free sweat you can generate.
At this point, it is important to note the other issue that always comes along with this request. The idea that these organizational volunteers can just show up a few days early and get it done is not realistic.  It takes planning and coordination from this point forward.  It also requires the willingness to show up on the days that are planned, not just the days that are convenient.  Sure, we try to make it as convenient as possible.  But, organization is organization and things have to get done and get done in order.
If you are able and willing to volunteer for such an effort, please let us know.
Below is a list of the important positions in need of volunteers.  If you are already doing this position, I'm sure you could use some help.  Our goal is to make sure everything is well covered.
Car Parking
Aircraft Parking
Tickets / admission
Registration / Meet and Greet
Volunteers (Possible Temporary Position)

Fly-In Name Change?

Through the years a very small group of people have grown attached to the name of our event, The Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In.  Having come up with it myself as a name that would immediately tell aviators what the event was about, it still does the job.  But, I also know that 99% of attendees don’t use it nor do they even know the name.  It’s too long, easy to butcher, and quite frankly it no longer accurately tells the story.  For this reason, I would like to change the name.
I’m curious what you think?  Knowing people often get bent out of shape when changes like this occur to their favorite events, I wanted to put it out there to make sure that would not be an issue.  Are you open to it?
Can't have that.
What would be the new name?  Some have suggested “The Lee Bottom Fly-In.”  It is what most people call it.  Of course the current name is long and most have never known it.  Me personally, I like something that would differentiate it from other events we would like to have in the future and leave it open for expansion.  The idea I have in mind would also tie it to other tag lines we have, such as, “Lee Bottom - Where old planes go to fly.”.  Additionally, our fly-in has come to be about so much more than just old planes.  It is about everyone and everything aviation.
If you’re open for a change, let me know.  If you’re going to stomp around mad let me know.  Whatever the case, I can assure you it will not be “Bottomventure.”  You’ll have to trust me on that one.  And, if you don’t like it, you can always call it the “Lee Bottom Fly-In.”
Something for everyone.

Aviation Inbreeding Causes Defects

Inbreeding has long been acknowledged as a cause of birth defects.  It’s also a subject of taboo.  Therefore, when the subject comes up in conversation it’s almost always quickly blown off with a joke.  An excess of limbs or a question of mental capacity are the two most common vectors.  Yet, the true effects of keeping it in the family can be invisible to the eyes and ears.
A slim genetic pool is never a good thing.  Even when it seems inbreeding has left the offspring with no issues, chances are fairly good something isn’t quite right.  But with a lack of obvious evidence and an unwillingness to discuss it, issues often go unnoticed until it is too late.
One of the common hidden genetic problems derived from inbreeding is the inability to have offspring.  In other words, inbreeding can and does cause infertility.  If not pure infertility, it can cause issues with pregnancy that prohibits fetuses from reaching full term.  This, perhaps more than any other defect, can quickly lead to the demise of a species; a genetic free-fall.

Amazingly though, in human societies, if inbreeding goes on long enough it sometimes becomes part of the culture.  Embraced by peers and even seen as a positive, it is one of the more bizarre displays of “civilized” behavior.  Combine a genetic free-fall with the embrace of inbreeding and you have a problem; an aviation problem.
It’s hard to believe aviation could suffer from either of these issues.  Yet, I believe it has both.  Look through your binoculars across the broad aviation savanna and what you’ll see looks perfectly normal.  Study each pocket of life in detail though and you’ll almost always find something that looks a lot like inbreeding.
There are the airports that have 30 planes and eight of them are Stearmans.  We’ve all seen our share of RV country clubs.  And as we all know, there’s the option of warbirds, antiques, and homebuilders too.  But, what about our groups?  Aviation can be so unwelcoming of any diversity that our groups have paired off into sub-groups.  Each of them promoting cultural inbreeding to the point they become loony with their ideas, rules, and requirements for acceptance.
HA!  Being from a small town, it's ok for me to joke about this.  Anyone else
try it and it'll be offensive.
Naturally, there can be reasons for an unbalanced ratio of aircraft types at an airport.  Specific models of airplanes often converge on a point because of access to a knowledgeable mechanic or availability of parts.  But in today’s world of overnight shipping and internet know-how, can we really believe there were seven people in a community of ten pilots who specifically wanted a Champ and the only thing holding them back was the right mechanic coming along?  No.  More often it comes from a desire to be part of the group. It is this desire which leads to inbreeding.

External factors can also cause low genetic pools.  With the economy being what it is, the expense of all things often means you have to choose one major hobby. This results in us having contact with fewer people of other interests.  And since our hobby rests inside a protected area, our genetic pool sets sail from an artificially shallow body of water.  It’s another trigger for genetic collapse; one of many.
Obviously, aviation has a reproductive problem; one that seriously threatens the future of the sport.  But, how do we fix it?  What's the solution?  It certainly isn't  aviation’s current tactic - BLAME IT ON KIDS.

Yes, that’s right.  Kids these days are the problem.  How dare they not have an interest in our sport?  They should want to come crawling to lick our boots for a ride.  They have no respect for the generations before them.  And those games they play; when we were kids our parents forced us outside.  Today they won’t even offer to wash my plane for a ride.  Many of them don’t even see heroes when they look at us.  Have they no idea how cool we are?  
Kids; who knew that kids would bring down the greatest sport of freedom in the world?  And who in the hell would have ever predicted kids would someday come into existence without parents?  Amazing things are happening aren’t they?  Nope.
People seem to forget that kids come from parents and parents come from grandparents.  Ultimately, this means you are to blame, not the kids.  You did this.  But, it’s so much easier to blame the kids; those miracle babies who appeared out of thin air to become a generation which has no respect for elders, doesn’t trust institutions, and refuses to go outside.  HOW DARE THEY!?!
This brings me back to our level of aviation genetic variability.  I always like to read the foreword letters in publications.  You know, they’re the ones usually written by the editor.  In aviation magazines they are commonly little more than a rundown of what you’ll see in the following pages.  But notice I said I read the letters in “publications.”
Myself, I often go through handfuls of non-aviation magazines, each representing different cultures, hobbies, or interests, reading only that foreword letter.  Doing so gives me instant insight into a broad spectrum of society and a feeling for what each niche is feeling.  One I often refer to is in Hemmings Sport & Exotic, written by David LaChance.
I like David’s work for many reasons.  It represents another but different sport of freedom, always attempts to look at ongoing issues from a point of reality, and regularly forces the status quo’s status to be reconsidered.  While reading his April 2015 piece, “Cars and the Youth Movement”, I was struck by its perfect relevance. 
Allow me to set the stage.  Here is his opening paragraph.  “You must have heard it said.  There’s a chance you’ve said it yourself.  America’s young people, the belief goes, just don’t care about cars.  They don’t have any use for them, have no desire to own one, and, in fact, can’t even be bothered to get their drivers’ licenses, content to catch rides with FWL’s (friends with licenses), or perhaps Uber.  Give them a choice between a new Porsche Cayman and next year’s iPhone and they’ll pick the wrong one every time.”
WOW!  Right on the nose, right?!  He described kids perfectly.  Correct?  WRONG!
LaChance actually goes on to discuss how MTV the company has branched out from the business of streaming music videos to young folks.  Today they also have a research side that studies them in detail.  The corporation, long knowledgeable about generations of youth, has therefore become a great resource of real statistical information about them; information which often flies in the face of accepted reality.
Quoting data from an MTV study titled, “Millennials Have Drive,” his letter to his readers shows that damn near everything they believe about young people is wrong.  Your status quo, jump on the bandwagon, blame it on the kids whining is essentially baseless.  And there’s no reason to believe the results would be any different with aviation.  So where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us with an uncomfortable reality.  The real problem is us.  Aviation has been, for too long, a group of groups doing less and less to effectively promote and revive aviation.  We’ve developed clicks that brush off outsiders, been poor stewards of the spirit of aviation, and have never put any real thought into the future.  And yet, the real issue runs deeper than that.
As parents, and elders, we have failed.  We have actively embraced technology as daycare, given children everything with nothing expected in return, have treated them like friends instead of youngsters in need of direction, made them believe everything is dangerous, and even restricted their lives to the point of insanity for fear of them being hurt or dying.  These are all selfish things.
Don’t want to put out the effort to control your kids, give them a phone.  Want to be known as the cool parent, be their friend.  Don’t ever want to experience the pain of seeing your child hurt; never let them do anything so it never comes to that.   It’s crazy and it’s lazy but one thing is worse; raise kids the way I described and then blame them for the outcome.
That is what society is doing.  Yet, despite all the efforts to make them worthless, these kids still have a drive to be good citizens, live life to the fullest, and be successful and all you’re doing is pointing the finger their way.  If I were them, I wouldn’t trust you, I wouldn’t trust any other institutions, and I certainly would not want to come to the airport to hang out with you or learn to fly.  Instead, I would probably find a video game that puts me into scenarios that move at high speed, cut across state lines and cultural divides, rewards me for excellence, and ultimately puts my life (in the game) at risk. 
You see, the games and electronics are merely replacements for what we’ve kept them from.  The phones connect them openly to new friends when barriers exist elsewhere.  And as for that lack of respect, well, respect is earned, not given.  Technology has giving them a way to block out the people who have screwed them over and to do the things you wish to keep them from.
The saddest part of this though may be the most ironic.  It is the parents who, with the embrace of technology and media, chased each other to the bottom.  Every new generation following the latest trendy parenting book; each new generation of parents attempting to show everyone how cool a parent they were; every generation giving their kids more for less; each generation forgetting that the hardest times produce the people of most character.   And, as always, each generation has blamed it on their children.
I applaud people like David LaChance for looking outside of his industry to find answers.  Often the results are uncomfortable.  Almost always they are valuable.  In this case, the findings shut down what may be the most pervasive myth about Millenials and forces people to think.  If it’s not the kids’ fault, whose is it?  Without the correct answer to that question, it is impossible to answer the next; how do we fix it?  One thing is for sure.  If we keep looking inside the clan for answers, we’re not going to find them.

Are Your Groups Really Fighting For You? Part 2

Side 1
In part one of, “Are Your Groups Really Fighting for You?” I posed the title question and gave you a photo to view.  The goal was to have you look at a typical AOPA magazine ad and consider what might be on the other side.  If you had the publication still on hand, I hope you didn’t peek before your first seriously looked it over. 
OK, so before we move forward, let’s consider what’s in the ad itself.  Being an aviator the first thing I see is the Cub.  I bet it’s the same for you.  See anything wrong?  Yeah, that’s right, the N# on the wing is backwards.
If you’re one of those people saying, “Big deal,” as if it isn’t, please allow me to explain why it actually is.  When companies create ads like this they are trying to sell products.  If you know me you know I have no problem with that and that I am a die hard capitalist.  But, from an advertising and marketing standpoint, I can tell you what else it means.  This ad is no different than Hillary Clinton putting on a down-home country accent when talking to people in the south.  It’s insincere, shows a true lack of understanding, and quite frankly it’s pandering for sales.
The little guy, in his or her small airplane, is who will be crushed by the insane ADS-B rule and its assault on privacy.  And because of that, the little guy is the target of this ad.  The company wishes to sell us grass-roots aviators as many of their relatively inexpensive units as possible.  Therefore, they reached into their bucket of stereotypes and generated a beautiful scene with a Cub flying through it.  This oversimplification, to Freeflight, is who you are.  Nothing more, nothing less; just some outdated pilot flying an old plane.

Want proof of my point?  To them that basic detail, the N#, one that is important to aviators, was of such little concern they got it wrong.  For Free Flight to do this is no different than an advertiser placing a bucket of fried chicken and slices of watermelon into an ad targeted at African Americans.  They see you as a group to target, not one worth understanding in order to create a product you really need.

Please don't get me wrong.  I’m not offended. I merely see them for what they are, predatory morons.  And don’t get me started again on their deceptive twisting of words, “A complete ADS-B system for less than $2000.”  Every pilot I’ve asked has agree, “A complete system” means both in and out.
I’m sorry, I apologize for getting off topic.  Some things just have to be said.  With that out of the way, let’s move on to what’s on the other side.  Click on the photo to enlarge and read it.
Side 2.  Click to enlarge and read.
What do you think about that?  It’s an entire page, written by the Supreme Commander of AOPA, discussing all the things he and AOPA have been doing to help you buy ADS-B units.  Nowhere is there any discussion of continuing to fight the rule.  And nowhere is there mention of any efforts to make the rule less burdensome, well, other than things that would make it easier for you to buy and install units from companies like the one conveniently featured on the previous page.

This is a classic example of what our groups have been doing not for, but to us; a full page ad pandering cheap units followed by a page explaining how AOPA wants to help you afford (buy) them.  Seriously, what do you think about that?  
Are your groups really fighting for you?  Not so much.  But, in the interest of clarity, how about we get one thing straight?  Managing a continuous retreat is not fighting.
Adding insult to injury, and attempting to imply acceptance of the rule as being industry wide, Mark Baker mentions joining forces with 13 other aviation groups to lay out their concerns to the FAA.  Of course, the big players among these groups are all led by people dearly attached to politics, rather than what is right, and some of them even represent manufacturers of ADS-B units.
And as for the manufacturers, Mr. Baker claims both they and the FAA have listened to AOPA's concerns.  How does he prove it?  By pointing out that “new lower-cost products have been announced with a price about half that of the least expensive ADS-B out solutions that were previously available.”  Let’s think about that.  Better yet, let’s consider a comparison.
Today I can order, overnight, a drone that has four motors, carbon fiber props, an on-board computer, a transmitter and receiver, GPS, stabilization, and an autopilot that can be programmed to use the GPS to fly predetermined routes .  On its belly is a three axis stabilized 4K camera that streams video back to my control unit. I can have that complete device in hand for under $1500.  Boiled down, it is a cutting edge flying machine capable of digitally controlled, programmable mechanical flight used to carry and control a cutting edge film device in a fully stabilized manner.  On top of all that, this flying machine can take off by itself and if something goes wrong it can fly itself home.

In contrast to this example, Mark Baker and Freeflight believe we should all soil our panties for a $2000 device (uninstalled) that when turned on determines its current altitude and attitude and sends out a coded signal.  The proverbial “fart in the wind.”

Unfortunately, people just aren’t that ignorant.  Everyone knows you can build that ADS-B unit (complete in the box) for somewhere south of $200.  The same people know the only reason it is being required is politics and a lack of leadership in aviation.  But hey, they can always blame the FAA and liability concerns for the excessive cost.  Pilots have been falling for that one for decades.
Do you want to get down to the cold hard reality of it all?  Anyone who has been paying attention to the whole ADS-B dog and pony show knows AOPA hasn’t caused the price of these things to come down.  Even the FAA knows this rule is going to brutalize our segment of aviation; so do the electronics manufacturers.  They may be arrogant but they aren’t stupid.

During some point in the process of shoving this rule down our throats, you could tell they realized their combined efforts were going to kill the layer of golden eggs.  They also realized this regulation might be the breaking point.  When that happened, like magic, suddenly everything was easier to do, rules could be changed on a whim, and products could be cheaper to build and sell.  But, the only message we hear is AOPA saved you.  It's the perfect symbiotic relationship.
The worst part of all this though is that everyone understands this unit does nothing to improve safety over what we already have.  It merely allows you to meet the minimum requirements of an ill-conceived regulation designed to justify the effort.  This places it firmly in the category of "government gone wild."
OK, so what about that question “Are you groups really fighting for you?”  Pretend AOPA actually was on your side.  If the group could not do away with ADS-B, what would they do instead?  I know what I would do.  You'll get that in Part 3.