I was a panel member of a group of aviation journalists a few weeks back at a lunchtime meeting of the Wichita Aero Club, and the mood in the room was a little bleak. Even some of my fellow panelists were making dire predictions about the demise of general aviation. Everything good about what we do, they seemed to be saying, was behind us.
It’s nonsense. There’s unimaginably cool stuff in our future.
The fiscal cliff compromise notwithstanding, it appears that the 2013 edition of our highest legislative body once again will be strongly divided along partisan lines both old and new.
So it comes as a nice surprise to learn not only that there is something our legislature can agree upon but that it has to do with aviation. Earlier this week the Senate confirmed Michael Huerta as FAA administrator, giving the former number two guy at the agency a five-year term.
As part of the deal for a government bailout of its failed business in 2009, GM agreed to get rid of its jets. The stipulation was a result of the public “outing” of three automaker CEO’s for having flown to Washington, D.C. for hearings in their business jets. The trio of car bosses was excoriated for the decision, which was trumpeted as a symbol of corporate excess, which it was not.
The photos released last week of a Bell 412 towing a giant banner over the United Arab Emirates as part of a record-setting flight caught my attention. While helicopters do an admirable job of hauling sling loads from their bellies, they aren’t the ideal platforms for all types of towing.
One instructor friend with whom I chatted recently told me that on a “high percentage” of initial flights, the student is visibly afraid of the process, and this is despite the very best efforts of the instructor to assure the student that everything will be just fine, and it will be. In terms of both fatal and serious accidents, flight instruction is one of the safest types of flying there is (which is a good subject for another time).
We’ve been hearing talk about a looming “pilot shortage” for so long that we’ve stopped believing it. But I had dinner last night with a group of regional airline pilots, all in their mid-30s and all left-seaters on CRJ 700s, who told me they’re convinced a pilot shortage is coming. They might be right this time.
Does flying cost too much for “normal” pilots to afford? That’s a question we hear at Flying a lot, and it’s an interesting one, though I suspect that the people asking it have a hidden message. Let me explain.
Flying can be expensive. Clearly, flying a Falcon 7X costs too much for me to afford, but, thank goodness, there are other planes in the sky or I’d be writing third person stories about this stuff instead of giving you views from the cockpit of my airplane.
As I get ready to sit down for my Thanksgiving dinner, I’m reflecting on the things that I’m thankful for. While family and friends top that list, the freedom of flight is a close second. I still marvel at the fact that, at any time of the day or night, I can jump in an airplane and get the best view there is – the view from an airplane.
In aviation, as elsewhere in life, hope can be a four-letter word. I hope we’ve got enough fuel to make our destination (as opposed to picking one of the many good alternates gliding past below); I hope this downturn reverses course soon (instead of innovating during the downturn to put yourself in better shape once it is over); I hope that more people start flying soon (as opposed to ... as opposed to doing what, exactly?)