As a pilot I have an irresistible tendency to look up when I see an airplane over head. For some reason I don’t think this instinct exists in the non-aviation oriented population.
This has been demonstrated to me dozens of times when I’m in public. I reflexively strain my neck to place my gaze upon anything that my ear detects to be aerial in nature, while the nearby “civilians” are oblivious.
Last weekend, me and three other friends had the opportunity to do a 4-ship formation overflight at the start of a local high school homecoming game. It was a beautiful evening, we had all of the coordination in place with the local tower that owned the airspace and we kept it legal at 1000′ above the highest obstacles. Since we were really excited we took off a wee bit early and the very accommodating controller let us drone about in airspace normally relegated for airliners. This half hour “tour of the city” would have been highly visible to anyone outdoors and in fact I received several emails from folks saying they saw us. The interesting thing was none of those came from my friends that don’t fly – yes I have non-flying friends – thus proving my point.
This might be a metaphor for pilots, always looking up, ever optimistic in spite of how we communicate outwardly. We are wired to put on this cynical, rugged, opinionated exterior. We are always questioning and we might even be a little argumentative at times, but on the inside I think we are much more optimistic than we let on. In fact accident statistics would indicate that we are too optimistic; seems like in spite signs of impending doom we tend to press on.
That aside, I think this positive can-do spirit is what has spawned the great things that we have done in aerospace up to today. All the way back to the Wright Bros, continuing on with the innovations from war-time, and really culminating with our manned moon missions. Now we are doing less as a Nation and more as groups of like-minded individuals; the proliferation of kit aircraft, the first incarnations of electric propulsion, and the privatization of space, all from the private sector not from the government.
I hope that we can keep “looking up” and never set aside our rich tradition of innovation and accomplishment as we move into the new era of more homegrown advancements and successes.
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