Unusual Attitudes: Oscar Night in Georgia
An excerpt from “One of the Trusted”
by Gill Robb Wilson:
You look down at your
hands on the wheel.
They are veined and hard and brown.
Tonight you notice they look a little old.
And, by George, they are old.
But how can this be?
Only yesterday you
were in flying school.
Time is a thief. You have been robbed.
Beyond doubt they are always
somewhat apprehensive aloft.
But why do they continuously
come up here
in the dark sky despite
You have often wondered about that.
You look down at your hands again.
They come because they trust you —
you the pilot. They turn over their lives
and their loved ones and
their hopes and dreams
to you for safekeeping.
To be a pilot means to be
one of the trusted.
To be a pilot is to hold life in your hands — to be worthy of faith.
No, you have not been robbed.
You aren’t “just a pilot.”
There is no such thing
as “just a pilot.” Your job is a trust.
The years have been a trust.
You have been one of the trusted.
Who could be more?
The temperature inside the museum at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, ideal for men in dinner jackets, was a little frosty for bare shoulders and a thin silk evening dress. But there was plenty of warmth from being with friends at the 2013 Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Since 1989, 100 aviators have been enshrined — sons and daughters of the south but with names iconic even to a Yankee: Epps (three generations of them), Pitts, Maule, Cochran, Rickenbacker, Bevo Howard, Allen Paulson, Lowe, Jungemann and a host of others. Last year I was honored to introduce my DC-3 mentor and friend from Griffin, Georgia, Bob McSwiggan. This year the honors were going to two men I’d known from the years I’d gone to Griffin to fly the DC-3 with Bob — Winn Baker and Ron Alexander. The third honoree, Lewis Jordan, is a Griffin boy who helped launch ValuJet and then AirTran, a hugely successful operation recently acquired by Southwest Airlines. I’m awed by that kind of business acumen, but I don’t know Mr. Jordan … c’mon, he isn’t a pilot.
At dinner I somehow scored a seat at a table with two former inductees, Connie and Ed Bowlin, both retired Delta captains (and famous for their “his and hers” P-51s), as well as Captains Sam Bass, Tony Manzo and Larry Lavine and their wives. Yeah, I was definitely in Delta Airlines country.
Taking our seats, we were confronted with mountainous hunks of iceberg lettuce followed by a mystery meat entree that looked suspiciously like FOD from the nearby Warner Robins runway. Dessert was a Little Debbie look-alike sitting in a puddle of yellow goo. My intake that day had been an airline-size bag of pretzels and a couple of Tootsie Pops, but I kind of pushed stuff around on my plate as I chatted, fervently hoping the Wendy’s on the road to the motel stayed open late. Throughout dinner long speeches were delivered, sponsors were thanked, “dignitaries” were recognized, anthems were sung and invocations were prayed — all interspersed with assurances from the Master of Ceremonies that they’d really, really streamlined things this year.