A Pilot Looks at 2021

The year that was? Let’s just say we’re looking forward, not back.

As I close my logbook on 2020, I’ve totaled up the hours and shown gratitude for every one of them. This year has changed us, and brought us the opportunity to reflect on our experiences, and use them to make 2021 an improvement over the past 366 days. The bar is low, I’d say. In that vein, I’d like to share my predictions for the new year, based on hope as well as current efforts underway in general aviation, business aviation, and the airlines that began in 2020.

We will get together—in any way that we can. We’ve already seen efforts pay off at smaller gatherings and fly-ins throughout the year. We’ve participated in socially distant airshows through our Virtual Air Show hub—and the gains we’ve made from using remote learning and meeting mediums will enhance our reach in the future. We thrive on personal connection with other pilots, and we plan to be part of 2021 events in a way that makes sense.

We will keep flying. Whether it’s our own aircraft or those of friends, flight schools, or employers, our aerial conveyances have lifted us up, beyond, and above to keep the world in perspective. They’ve allowed us to continue to travel, in many cases, and continue training, in others. We have found a way to log hours—even if they are proficiency hours in front of a sim—and we will keep these efforts going.

We will move forward on the greening of aviation. While there are certainly initiatives that may play out differently than what was planned by their creators, new ways of powering aircraft will propel us forward. Aviation’s spirit is one of exploration, discovery, and using science to cross new frontiers. More than a century since the Wrights first flew, chasing away the doubters, we will continue to advance human flight—and in a way that preserves what we love best about our home planet.

We will keep flying our vintage airplanes. There’s just too much love here to let our vintage aircraft go. Aviators and innovators excel at finding a way—see my point above—and some will use that determination to keep our history aloft. We support efforts to “Keep ‘Em Flying,” providing a bridge across time for our children and their children to understand our past.

We will make a renewed focus on safety. Resting on several years of quiet accident data shouldn’t lull us into complacency. Especially as we come out of hibernation, in many instances, we need a full commitment to proficiency and a thorough examination of our own mistakes. I’ve committed to an annual flight review for as far back as I can recall—and I urge you to do the same. Make it valuable time. We will provide a host of ideas for you from our experts—and programs such as the I.L.A.F.F.T. Podcast, allowing pilots to reflect on their own experiences.

We will see business aviation adapt to customer needs. With new aircraft, cleaning processes, and programs to get those folks who were on the fence into the cabin—this will help keep pilots employed in the front office. Business and corporate aviation have formed the backbone of private aviation for decades, but they have taken on new significance in 2020 as more potential customers explore better options for travel. With pilots leaving the airlines out of necessity or choice, the prospect of flying piston, turboprop, or turbine equipment for a private entity or corporate can be exciting.

We will have a different experience in the airline world. While I admit that I miss being able to buy a Bloody Mary when I’m 114th pilot in command in economy, the lack of on-board service isn’t the big difference we’ll continue to see. We have seen a rollback on change fees, for one—will that stick? We are now witnessing the return to service of the Boeing 737 Max and all the machinations that requires—will the aircraft be accepted by pilots and the public, and will there be relevant change to the ODA process? How will the airlines address training and staffing in 2021 as traffic returns to a new level? If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that change is the only constant.

And finally, we will expand the diversity of voices at Flying. You have my personal commitment to this, as well as that of our company. In the past we’ve been monotone through inertia, and both conscious and unconscious bias, and reflective of the industry. As we’ve seen in particular through our social channels, such as Instagram, the industry is changing—and we are thrilled to move forward as we push towards our own 100-year anniversary, in 2027.

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