Friday, October 11, 2019

And the Wind Was Gone

Among the greatest aspects of aviation is the secret of what lies behind the curtain. Flying is an otherworldly experience - a universe within a universe with rules and colors not shared with the grounded. Aviators don’t think outside the box, they live outside it. Existing among the elemental gears of an ethereal machine painting backgrounds for mortals, they are also, unfortunately, inconsiderate of their realm.
Years ago, when power lines threatened our stretch of clear-span river, we notified the FAA, construction stopped, and a proper site and airspace study was begun. Along with the study came the all-important opportunity for pilots and enthusiasts to file comments with the FAA.
At the time, our fly-ins were attracting over 400 aircraft and thousands of people. Additionally, over 7000 “regulars” were on our email list. “Let’s enlist them,” we thought. And, we did. By giving out all the ways our airport followers could comment on the proposed wires, we were sure to offer a hefty swing. The many followers who were openly unhappy with the notion of the wires would surely come to our defense. And, they did – Can you guess how many? Here’s a hint. It wasn’t one and it wasn’t ten thousand. The answer is below.
The number of people who wrote in was three. Think about that the next time there is a threat to a local airport, a senator speaks out against your activity, or some local group decides they don’t like your plane flying overhead. Think about it and realize that if it happens to your community nobody is going to come to your defense. Because, for all its hot air, aviation does a horrible job of working as a team to promote the sport, and an even worse job of standing up for its own.
Posts on social media are nothing but the worst kind of messages in a bottle, tossed into a closed loop puddle. They may make your feel as though you are doing something, but you aren’t. To be effective you must expend your time, often some money, and a sincere effort to support the greatest freedom known to man. If you love it, stand up for it.
Here’s where I’m going with this…
For many years, people who knew me thought I was anti-warbird. No matter where I went guys would bring it up and make jokes about it. My belief is that notion developed from my desire to question everything. In today’s society, if you aren’t blindly loyal to a single point of propaganda, then you’re against it. Question how things work, well then, you must be against it. Right? Wrong.
My passion for antiques was the result of several factors. First, they’re challenging, fun, and have real history. Two, they are most often chaperoned by down to Earth people. Finally, I couldn’t find a warbird group where I fit. Then, one day, a friend invited me out to the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour. I’ve been involved ever since.
What did I find that made me want to do more? What about the group makes me stay? In short, it was the great group of people committed to keeping the soul of aviation alive, nurturing freedom in the hearts of millions, that made me stay. Some people say it, some live it. The Collings Foundation lives it.
Along the way I’ve met amazing people, worked with amazing pilots, and learned much more than I imagined. I have also watched, with great admiration, as the Collings Foundation mentored more next generation aviators than all other groups combined. Yes, it may be my observation but I stand by it. The organization believes in its mission and it shows. That brings me to my point.
As I’m sure you know, the Collings Foundation’s B-17, “909,” was recently involved in an accident. It was a tragedy. For those of us who knew the pilots, it was heartbreaking. Yet, we also cannot help but think of “our passengers.” To those who volunteer with the organization, every person that celebrates freedom with a flight in a foundation plane feels like family. Thinking of any them being injured, or worse, is crushing.
However, with heavy hearts the organization must go on. Were the foundation to stop promoting the history of our great nation, and the ideas of freedom that accompany it, it would be an admission of defeat, or at the very least an indication of insincerity. Fortunately, that’s not the case. However, for the Collings Foundation to continue its mission it must have the FAA’s approval.
Recently, Rob Collings, Executive Director of the Collings Foundation, sent members a letter addressing this very subject. In light of recent circumstances I cannot fathom the weight he is carrying. However,  as you read his words, I believe you’ll see his commitment shows through in concern for both those in the recent accident and the ongoing mission of the foundation.
Upon reading his closing words (below), I hope you’ll remember our Lee Bottom story about the wires which now cross a once clear-span stretch of river. For those of us in aviation to nurture the freedom of flight we must all positively participate in standing up for it. There are no other people out there who will. It is up to each of us. It is up to you.

“Dear supporters,
Please join the Collings Foundation in our thoughts and prayers with those who were on the tragic flight of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” on Wednesday, October 2nd. We will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley International Airport and the assistance of all local agencies in the days after the crash.
The Collings Foundation team has been and remains fully cooperative with officials to determine the cause of the crash and we will comment further when facts and details become available. We have suspended the Wings of Freedom Tour for the remainder of the 2019 season and the aircraft have returned to our winter maintenance base in Florida.
The mission of the Collings Foundation remains steadfast in the goal of making history come alive as we have for over 30 years. Since 1989, the Wings of Freedom Tour has touched the lives of millions, as we have made visits to over 3600 communities in that time. Tens of thousands have flown aboard our Living History Flight Experiences (LHFE) on the B-17, B-24, B-25, and A-1E and flight training on the TP-51C, TF-51D, and TP-40N. In the past week we have received many stories on how powerful and life-changing the tour has been for families and as we move forward, and we expect there are thousands more who have been touched by the Wings of Freedom Tour.
In the coming months, federal agencies will be reviewing the LHFE program for not only our organization, but many other organizations nationwide who continue to fly vintage aircraft as a part of their educational mission. As these reviews take place, we feel it is important for the voices of those impacted by the Wings of Freedom Tour over the years to be heard. We need to let federal agencies know that the LHFE program is important to you and other American citizens as an educational tool.
Please take a moment to add your comments to the current docket regarding the renewal of the Collings Foundation LHFE program with the FAA at the Federal Register. You may do so online at the following link:

As you write your comment, please review the tips for submitting effective comments from at

Thank you for your support of our living history mission.

Best regards,
Rob Collings
Executive Director"


Charley Valera said...

An excellent commentary and review of our lack of participation as pilots. Thank you for writing this. I have forwarded your full comments to AOPA, EAA and various pilots chapters, as well as the Collings Foundation.
It will be during our lifetimes to hear of the passing of the last WWII veteran and very possible the only warbirds will be in museums. But we're not ready for that yet.
And yes, I did respond to the FAA as needed.

Charley Valera

Ken Bittner said...

Well articulated and point(s) taken Rich.
My "comment" was filed.
Be well.

Unknown said...

The loss of "NINE-O-NINE", ITS FLIGHT CREW AND PASSENGERS WAS/IS TRAGIC! It is an accident, who's cause will eventually be revealed to all of us after a thorough and searching investigation by the FAA. Only after this review, will we know the reason, whether internal or external (wrong fuel, oil, etc.) mistakes were the cause.
It is particularly disturbing when we have to endure the "drum beat" of people, who typically know little or nothing about a subject, but want to eliminate any future tragedies by "Banning" the activity. These are the same people who want to ban all fire arms, based on the actions of a few disturbed individuals; the same people who move near an established airport, and then petition to shut it down due to noise or low flying aircraft; or discontinuing passenger rides on beautiful, historic aircraft like NINE-O-NINE, even though most of these vocal "arm chair quarterbacks" would never personally sign up for a ride!
The individual writing the above article/plea is absolutely correct. We get greatly aggravated at the loud, uninformed vocal minority who call for the elimination of our rights and privileges, but we don't think OUR personal input would really curtail their cries!! But as he author stated, instead of standing up for our rights, we move on to the next angry group of uninformed dissenters who want to eliminate something else, and again, we do nothing!!
We cannot allow these small vocal groups/ individuals to succeed in their efforts to ban our rights and privileges, whether they are opportunities to ride in one of these incredible pieces of history, or any other thing, they deem unacceptable for everyone. This is an imperative to all aviation loving individuals to stand up and be counted!!
D.A. Darrough. Commercial Pilot, "2128452", and life long supporter of historic aircraft, and the great Foundations (Collings, and many others) that restore, maintain and fly these magnificent pieces of history.

Joel Godston said...

A fine article.Below are a couple of comments, including one from a VERY good friend that flew a B-17 during the time that both of us were employed at Pratt & Whitney and flying F-86H's in the Mass, Air National Guard. On October 3, 2019, at 1:36 PM, George M Gordon wrote:
In a message dated 10/3/2019: The Collins B-17 was flying off Rnwy 6; that is where he was trying to go to when every thing went to hell…..with out looking at a Jeppesen I remember 6-24 is 10,000 ft….the jet fuel was only speculation….. R Regards,
Ken Benson, Starshine Aviation & Starshine Farm
"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will long to return" (Leonardo da Vinci)

From: George M Gordon
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019: They certainly have more than 5000' at Bradley' and the B-17 doesn't need anywhere near that much runway lightly loaded as it would always be... it will certainly be easy to tell if there's jet fuel in the tanks...... pretty dumb move if that's it..... gg
Really sorry to hear of B-17 crash in Connecticut, especially with several fatalities!I don’t think it’s the one that I used to fly... apparently an engine problem... gg

Flyingfish182 said...

Thanks for your post. Got me to send a comment supporting The Collings Foundation.

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