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Fri, Jul 22, 2011

One More Time: ATC2012 and FAA²: Seeking True Transformation For An Embattled GA

Join Us For A Formal Press Conference At EAA Press HQ, Monday, July 25th at 1430...

It was one of those innocent moments that seemed so simple... and yet... wasn't. While waiting for my lunch at a Cracker Barrel near the holy land of Oshkosh, and looking over a few things on my iPad, my (somewhat) idle thoughts were interrupted by a youngster who clearly wasn't very happy with the world... crying, squirming, a few shrieks here and there -- this was not a good day to be a toddler -- or anyone nearby who valued their peace and quiet. The tot's father did everything he could to quiet the munchkin and seemed quite frustrated until his eyes spotted something among the cluttered kitsch that adorns the walls of the average Cracker Barrel... an old but undeniable reproduction of a painting of an even older DC-6.

"Look, Austin... Airplane!"

Well, I'll tell ya what -- little Austin turned around so fast that I feared a serious case of rugrat whiplash but upon spying the elder Douglas, he immediately sniffed back his tears, shut down his wails and his generally unhappy demeanor gave way to a huge smile... the kind that only little kids can pull off.

"Air... Pane!!" he bellowed -- transforming instantly from the toddler from hell into a happy, giggly, cherub delighted with the world around him -- thereafter becoming fairly (and blessedly) pleasant as he scanned the pic of the old airliner incessantly barely taking his eyes off it for the entire duration of their meal.

And so it begins...

As simple as that.

That's how it starts... that unmistakable spark of interest, of passion, of desire, of intent -- to fly.

And if Austin is to have a chance to chase the dream, we need to make sure that there really is an aviation world ready for him when he grows up...

Below, I am restating our announcement and intention to create the Aviation Transformation Conference in early March of 2012. Since I first made this public, we have been inundated with aggressive and passionate responses... over 16000 so far... from people who want to see it happen, who want to help, and who have given so very generously of their ideas and volunteered all manner of support. And we're going to need all that we can get.

At 1430 Monday, July 25th, the opening day of Oshkosh 2011, we will host a press conference at EAA Press HQ, to make some initial formal statements about the ATC2012 project and to start building support for the aggressive agenda we need to pursue if aviation is to truly survive.

  • Please join us, work with us, support us, help us.
  • Please tell everyone you know about this project.
  • Please ask everyone you know to support and to demand the support of the organizations, companies and associations that you work with.
  • Please send us your ideas for changing the fortunes of aviation and whatever ideas or info you think might help us put together this amazing mission... and please do all you can to be involved, stay involved, and encourage all those you know in aviation to add their involvement as well. 

And now... for those of you who did not catch it the first time around, please read on and see what we have in mind...

ATC2012: The Beginning Of The Next Generation Of Aviation

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

OK… The hinting and innuendo must end sooner or later -- and guess what… It ends now.

Well, at least most of it does…

Over the better part of two years, as part of the amazing experience it is to lead the Aero-News Network, I have been deeply involved in hundreds (literally) of conversations with people all over the aviation community about the state of our industry and the future of the Aero–World. I have the great good fortune of having gotten to know many of the movers and shakers in the aviation industry, and among them I have found some of the most innovative, aggressive, and original thinkers this industry has seen since Wilbur and Orville left Kill Devil Hill.

The conversations have been long, detailed, arduous, and most of all… Passionate. There are amazing people out there, with our best interests at heart, and a true desire to see that the aviation world climbs itself out of the spiraling miasma that has taken over us all, and replace it with something new and wonderful and durable and best of all -- aeronautically viable.

As previously noted, one thing has become painfully evident. The old model of aviation, the one that which we know so well and love so much and have wrapped ourselves around for decades on end, has come to an end. I grieve for it and it will always represent some of the best times of my life. I really don't want to belabor the issue, but the plain (plane?) fact of the matter is that way too many of us are trying to recapture something that has been decomposing for years and simply must be cast aside once and for all with fondness and gratitude and finality. Mind you; there was nothing wrong with the old model… It was wonderful, heartfelt, valuable, and it moved this lovely orb for decades on end and brought so much to the lives of so many… But we live in dramatically different times and the ways of old are simply unable to survive in the turbulent future that unfolds before us.

That was THEN… this is NOW.

So, what the hell do we do? Well, we could start by getting off our collective asses and get aggressively involved in crafting the next generation of aviation. REALLY.

While I may sound like a pessimist in some of the preceding prose, I have to tell you that I'm becoming tremendously optimistic about the next generation of aviation – at least so long as uncommonly committed, knowledgeable, passionate flyers are there to take a hand in directing its genesis. I have looked long and hard at the concept of true change, something my friend, XPrize Founder Peter Diamandis, calls "Transformative Change." By this, I mean creating something that is not merely an extension or improvement on past courses, but a radical and complete change in the overall state and direction of a program or pursuit.
Peter understands change. He and Gregg Maryniak (both pilots, by the way), two of my favorite people on the whole wide world, have already been a part of truly revolutionary change… The kind of change that has spread throughout the world. They have long ago earned their ‘Merit Badges’ in Transformational Change and have nothing to prove on this subject… they are masters on the topic. And they’re on our side.

Jim Campbell Interviews Peter Diamandis

So are a lot of other smart, original, aggressive thinkers and activists.

In addition to consults with Peter and Gregg, I have looked long and hard at other cultural and industrial movements, and especially those that have shown success in being effective in getting true change instituted, or have proven the ability to fight for a cause, and/or been able to educate and shape the minds of people throughout the world. I've looked at widely disparate industries and programs… Everything from ecological movements, to gun advocacy programs (fascinating, both). When committed, passionate, people with true vision are able to join together and work effectively, amazing things can happen. That's what I'm counting on as I introduce the most complex undertaking I have ever taken on in my whole life… And it starts next March with a two day Aviation Transformation Conference, ATC2012, to be held at the magnificent St. Louis Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

ATC 2012 is meant to be the ‘line in the sand’ for an industry that's truly committed to surviving the 21st century – and beyond. Along with some truly impressive people (my heroes and friends) who I am incredibly proud to be associated with, we will (first) convene an exhaustive two day conference and invite upwards of 200 people to participate. The people we invite are going to be the true innovators, activists, and most passionate advocates of aviation… In many cases I'm not talking about names that you know, or leaders that you've listened to for years and years -- but the true heart and soul of aviation. People with commitment, innovation, and incredible determination – people who have made a success of themselves and of their ideas, programs, projects and concepts despite outside conditions that are, at best, miserable. We are NOT looking for folks that are content to be a part of the status quo -- but for those who are bound and determined to shake things up and instigate a little revolution here and there. Most of all, I need people who are willing to deal with the fact that NOTHING LESS THAN RADICAL CHANGE will ensure any possibility of success for this effort.

We’re going to recruit amazing people (but please understand that anybody can ask to be a part of this -- we simply want to make sure that those who participate have something to offer and are looking to get right to work), and we’re going to ask for the very best input, thoughts, plans, and insights they can muster.

By the way, in filling the room with so many opinionated, accomplished people, we will publish a simple social compact for everyone to follow so that we can leave our egos at the door and get right to work. Personally; I’m giving serious thought to adopting the only TWO rules of the old “Wrong Brothers Air Force,” which (yes, I've cleaned it up a bit -- grin) simply state:

1. Everyone will be accorded the rank of Colonel
2. No one gives a (deleted) what rank you are…

We will spend the first day working through a critical examination of everything that is keeping the aviation world stalled in its current failure mode. It will be a brutal self-examination of everything wrong with this industry, and we will spend that day dissecting the issues in exacting detail, so that they can be categorized, prioritized, and grouped for examination and potential resolution. It is going to be a very fast-paced day, dozens of people will be tasked with presentations and examinations of anyone of a number of issues that we may find (issues that ultimately, God help us, may number into the hundreds)… The rest of the conference will be called upon to dissect, comment, and examine these "enemy" issues so that by the end of the day, we not only have a solid, BASIC, understanding of what's wrong with aviation but a path by which we can discuss how we might START to resolve those issues over the course of the coming years.

NO one is expecting miracles… And that first day will serve as nothing more than an outline for the days, months, and years to follow -- but mark my words when I say it's going to be a tough, even unpalatable, day to stomach.

On the Second Day we will take some of the data we have assembled from the day before, breaking those topics up into certain conceptual groups, and assign our attendees to examine them in detail (via workgroups) for most of the rest of the day. The main thrust of the second day to is to seek initial solution paths and recommendations for potential courses of action that might lead (someday) to an actual fix or an alternate course of action. No one expects even an aggressive effort on the second day to result in instant solutions… That's a ridiculous idea, and everyone we've consulted with is well aware of the fact that these are but the first steps in a very long and arduous effort.

Remember that old saying about how the longest journey begins with a single step??

Day Two is going to be just that. As the day nears its close, each of these workgroups will present summaries of their discussions to the whole conference -- and start preparing a more comprehensive report that will be made available to the entire conference within 30 to 60 days -- depending on the complexity of the topic and the issues at hand.

Sadly; I've seen events like these before that have undertaken critical examination and great introspection and produced AMAZING data… And then they do nothing with it.


ATC2012 will not end there – it CAN’T.

At the end of the Conference we will announce an initial structure for the foundation of a UNIQUE organization that will undertake the solution paths suggested that day and start a path to a necessary culture of change – a program that will continually evolve to meet the challenges at hand, learn from the data that we collect in seeking solutions to our issues, and will be positioned to grow, over time, into a nexus for True Transformative Change In The Aviation World.

WHEW… say that THREE times. Fast. I dare you.

The organization I speak of is going to be like nothing you've ever seen before. Much of the work will be done online, using the very best tools available for online networking, discussion, problem solving and collaborative problem solving.

This part is really rather unique and aggressive, and one of the best aspects about what I do, the people I meet, and the places that I find myself working in; is that you are able to see how the current revolution in communication and online networking can be utilized to build a very lean, mean, and intensely efficient organizational structure that allows people to collaborate 24/7, on their own terms, wherever they are, and with tools as ubiquitous as the iPhone in your pocket.

We'll have more to say about this later, but there's a tremendous amount of really exciting work being done in this arena, and while aviation faces tremendous challenges in the future, I see the issues ahead of us as a threefold dilemma:

  1. Defining the change required,
  2. Seeking the means by which that change may be accomplished,
  3. And building a community to support that change.

Simple… right?


I imagine that when people see my first mention of building a new organization, that some competitive concerns and issues may come quickly to mind among the alphabet groups…

But let me make this clear right from the start…

This organization competes with no one, BUT is willing to, and will seek to collaborate with everyone, and will be unlike anything that has been done in this industry heretofore. Further, it makes no claim on the primary missions espoused by other organizations, and will in fact, seek to find ways to support every good work done everywhere, no matter who's doing it or how they're doing it… So long as the aviation community benefits and progresses because of it.

Why do I think this can work? Am I so arrogant as to think I can solve the problems of an industry that have been simmering and decaying for decades?

"I" can't... but "WE" can.

While I am supremely confident that this program can really make a difference, there is no arrogance in that, in that I am going to be just one person in all this and will actively seek and partner with people I admire, respect, and trust beyond all measure. Many of the people that are involved in this are not people I might always agree with, and in fact, at times these are people I have greatly disagreed with… But I have a respect for their intellect, their commitment to the industry, and their innate ability to rationally argue for their cause. As a matter of fact, I expect that our greatest solutions will be found as a result of polite and respectful discourse than blind agreement. AND, as a matter of fact I don't see a whole lot of agreeing going on as this thing starts out, but over a period of time, I have faith that the commitment and intellect of the people involved will pioneer true consensus and build the foundation for aviation's next-generation.

I am stunned to be able to brag to you about some of the amazing people that have stepped up early and committed themselves to helping me get this started. And while some of these are names that you know from their efforts elsewhere in the industry, and may even be associated with some controversy, I assure you that these are people whose passionate belief in aviation and the recognition for change is real and genuine.

Phil Boyer

Among my most valued partners and advisors in this early stage of the program, is retired AOPA President Phil Boyer – whom just about everyone can agree is someone who understands much of what this industry needs and can add much to the discourse to come. This guy is the REAL deal.

Alan Klapmeier

Add to that other extraordinary flyers -- such as Alan Klapmeier, who jump-started a GA Renaissance with the founding of Cirrus Design, and the creation of a whole new generation of revolutionary GA aircraft.

Michael Maya Charles (R)

I am tremendously pleased to have the aid and Council of Michael Maya Charles, a pilot and aviation journalist who "gets it" and is particularly good at providing a challenge to many important arguments – an excellent skill to have.

Gregg Maryniak and Peter Diamandis

I am particularly amazed, after all these years, to still enjoy the friendship, counsel, and insight of both XPrize founder Peter Diamandis and the truly extraordinary fellow who actually inspired the XPrize, Gregg Maryniak – while both these gentlemen are passionate pilots and have made many a contribution to aviation, they have also become true experts in understanding and creating programs and movements that have changed the world. While I'm counting on many of our attendees and experts to help us understand the changes we need to make, I can think of few other men in the world who can help us understand how to make that change possible.

Doug Stewart

I have recently drafted an incredibly versatile spokesman and activists from the flight training community, Doug Stewart, who helped create one of the most hopeful movements I've seen in GA in many years… The Society for Aviation And Flight Educators (SAFE). Doug not only understands the changes necessary, but has already gotten one hell of a start on a critical aspect of the GA equation – namely flight training and the continuing education of the aviation world.

Rich Davidson

Rich Davidson is a name known to many who love grassroots aviation, but has never gotten near the respect he deserves… This is a guy who is in touch with the true Mom-and-Pop aviation community, who truly understands the passion of those flyers that are hanging on to their wings by their toenails with a desperate desire to keep flying at virtually any cost… As the owner and operator of a magnificent grass strip in a fairly unpopulated segment of Indiana, Rich provides an amazing refuge for GA flyers and is a vocal and occasionally controversial advocate for everyone who simply wants to fly. We can't do this without people like Rich.

Vern Raburn

And we can't do it without some of the true instigators and innovators… The people who keep spiking the punch bowl at the aviation party… Guys like Vern Raburn -- who not only took on incredible challenges in pursuing their dreams (and oft dealt with the associated disappointments), but have true passion for changing aviation in radical and unexpected ways, and whose efforts, ultimately, change aviation for the better. Vern colors outside the lines... we need that... a lot.

I have more incredible people to celebrate and brag about… some amazing people (wow... no kidding) who are giving me phenomenal counsel and are truly committed to partnering with the ATC2012 program and the far more difficult organizational challenges to follow. Over the coming weeks I'll be introducing more of them to you, and more important than that, giving them the opportunity via ANN to state their case, and start priming the pump over the next few months as we lead up to the pivotal first week of March.

We have a lot more work to do before that. And as a matter of fact, if the majority of the work and research isn't done before we even walk through the magnificent entrance of the St. Louis science Center, this is going to be a real tough gig.

So, we’re at work… Right now… No kidding (hence the reason that this piece is getting ready to post, LIVE, at 0518 ET).

We will have more specific announcements and the specific dates for the event at Oshkosh 2011 -- which is a fitting place to discuss the details of ATC2012. And we will also be taking the time to seek additional input, volunteers, and counsel from anyone who is generous enough to give us their time and effort in order to see this undertaking succeed.

Don't get me wrong, this is not an easy thing to do and I truly expect it to be, personally, the greatest challenge of my life… And I've got to tell you that I am spoiling for this fight.


By the way, though it will likely have to change to something a tad less gimmicky, we’ve had a little fun with the current working name for the organization we will form out of all of this. The tongue-in-cheek working name for the solution-driven organization that we will inaugurate in March just strikes my fancy for the moment (yes, I have a weird sense of humor... sue me)… I call it the Foundation For Aviation Advocacy, and admittedly the initials are just hysterical (though we call it FAA2) and I just know that there has to be a T-shirt made someday that includes those initials and the slogan, "This Time We REALLY Are Here To Help You."

But to be honest, at some point, someone might find a reason not to take this whole thing seriously – so a slightly more conventional name may need to be selected -- but I just want you to know that even though we’re taking on something awesome, and difficult, and challenging, and nigh-onto-impossible; that we’re more than ready to have a little fun along the way.

I hope you will too.

In the meantime, the next 60 days will be spent in consultation, and in building consensus among our community. If I, or some of our associates, calls to chat with you about ATC2012 or FAA2, I hope you'll take the time to give us your best ideas, insights, and suggestions, and if the spirit moves you, I hope you'll join us.

Before I leave you, let me leave you with a little homework, similar to that I left the other day in an earlier editorial effort. And please know that I would greatly appreciate any and all support you might render to us as we take this on… we need all the help we can get.

Please take some time and tell me everything you can about the following three questions:

  1. What are the greatest problems aviation faces for the future?
  2. What are, yet, the greatest assets left to GA?
  3. Who would YOU trust to help ATC2012 succeed... who do YOU think needs to be at this conference... please name as many people as you can think... and why they can help.

Thanks for bearing with me through this magnum opus… I truly look forward to the days to come.

Blue Skies!

James Richard Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief/Troublemaker/Unrepentant GA Cheerleader

FMI: Hey Jim, I Have Thoughts and Suggestions About Transforming Aviation!!!


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