Erudite Aviators Provide Solace & Solutions

By Scott Spangler on June 5th, 2017

Image result for nothing by chanceLooking at the challenges aviators face foretells of a seemingly insurmountable struggle to sustain our beloved avocation that is, for a lucky few, also an occupation. What makes this situation worse is that most of these challenges pit aviator against aviator.

The summit of challenge mountain is the proposed privatization of ATC. Supported by airline aviators, the user fees that would support it would, it is safe to assume, eliminate the ticket taxes the airlines pay on each passengers base ticket, which does not include the plethora of additional fees. In its place, the airlines would add the ATC user fees to their ticket prices. Business and general aviators would have to make life-changing financial choices if they want—or need—to continue flying.

Other challenges are more insidious because they are unintended consequences of aviation’s technological solutions in its ceaseless quest to improve safety. Take, for example, FAA Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 17007, Manual Flight Operations Proficiency. It urges aviators to maintain and improve “the knowledge and skills” they first mastered as students, manipulating the stick and rudder for a safe flight.

Image result for stick and rudderThe challenge here is not mastering the necessary knowledge and skills. It is finding the appropriate balance between the contribution technology makes to safety and the aviators ability to realize when he or she needs to take over, and to have the current stick-and-rudder muscle memory essential for maintaining that safety.

When considering the logical and disparate possible outcomes becomes morbidly oppressive, I seek solace from the erudite aviators who live on my bookshelves. From them I intuit solutions to today’s challenges, should aviators today choose to make the changes necessary to achieve them.

To many, Nothing By Chance, Richard Bach’s 1969 book is a nostalgic tale of a group of aviators who spend the summer living the barnstormer’s life. But it is so much more, if one reads carefully. It shows how a group of aviators, with different needs, achieved a shared goal financed by an unpredictable number of $5 flights. Naturally, these humans had their disagreements, but in the end they worked them out to the benefit of all. A similar outcome is possible if the spectrum of aviators unite in opposition to a privatized ATC system funded by user fees and agree on possible solutions that benefit all of aviation, not just one of its communities.

Image result for artful flyingAny aviator who manipulates an airplane’s controls should sit down with Wolfgang Langewiesche at least once a year, just to remind themselves that the fundamentals of flight he analyzed in Stick and Rudder are universal to all fixed-wing aircraft regardless of size. Then sit down with Michael Maya Charles who melds hands-on manipulation with the human metaphysical factors that play a critical role in their acquisition, sustainability, and employment.

Beyond solace, spending time with these erudite aviators may also inspire solutions to the challenges that the industry—and its individual participants—today face. But they will not be explicitly clear on the page, they will grow in the reader’s mind, especially one prepared for the implantation of new ideas by a sufficient supply of imagination unbounded from what was and what is, freed to consider what could be. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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