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Wed, Mar 13, 2024

Barnstorming: The Aviation World--A Demonstration of Well-Organized Chaos Theory

A Plan, Of Sorts, Has Been Brewing For Quite A While... And I Think It May Be Time To Act

By ANN/CEO Jim Campbell... With Inspiration From The Thousands Of Amazing Aviators Who Have Shaped My Life

What an intriguing, if conflicting, few weeks... 

I came home, several weeks ago, from a Veteran Cemetery after a dear friend lost his wife of nearly 60 years... so we endured the sadness while in a beautiful location dedicated to the memory of those whose hopes and dreams once served our nation so well... and as such, it was hard not to be pretty introspective on the quiet ride home. 

I spent most of it telling my dear wife Masako, of countless, now departed friends, with whom I shared so much and still, to this day, owe so much to, as well. 

I have been flying for more than 53 years.... and in love with Aviation, of all kinds, for far longer... having survived nearly 20,000 hours of extraordinary air time because of the generosity, wisdom, and kinship of so many from throughout the aviation world that has become one of the driving forces in my life. 

I could spend days telling you stories of extraordinary Flyers who have been so important to me... some with names you've never heard of, some with names that are highly recognizable... and all of them so incredibly valuable to me as I worked my way up the aviation ladder. I owe so much to them all... which brings me to a powerful thought that has haunted me for a while now. 

In one of my last chats with Bob Hoover, shortly before his passing, he expressed great concern about the future of aviation and what it must do to survive in a world that seemed to value it less and less with each passing year. He knew his extraordinary life was coming to an end, but his thoughts and concerns were all about the aviation world that would come to pass long after he was gone.   

He cared about that... deeply. And if I owe my great aviation life to anyone, Bob would be at the top of the list... both for the privilege of his friendship., the inspiration he gave me, and all that I learned as his friend. And I think I owe him my best efforts to affect a better future for the aviation world he loved so much. 

Over the course of over a half-century, I have watched Aviation change dramatically. I have seen extraordinary technological advancement, incredible capabilities, new materials, astounding abilities... but what astounds me most of all is the outright decay of the aviation world from when it was bright and shiny and somewhat new (as I saw it over 50 years ago) to a shadow of what it once was.

Those of you who have been reading me for so many decades, know that I will not do anything but tell you the cold hard facts... and they are this...  aviation is in big trouble...  

And, anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either not facing the facts, truly uninformed, or outright lying. Worse, so many of the alphabet associations are parading around the industry, touting their expertise and accomplishments (while paying obscene amounts of money to their senior staff) are failing us all in extraordinary ways, and refusing to address the big issues that confront us.

One of my favorite events at Oshkosh were the time(s) or two each week when I would sit in the right seat of Paul Poberezny’s Red One sawed-off Beetle and cruise around the grounds while just chatting up a storm. We did this for years... and it was one of the things I looked forward to, most, when journeying to Oshkosh. I miss those times more than I can tell you. 

Paul was a complex human being, but he was right on the money far more than he was wrong -- while the one prominent belief that he took some ribbing for, was his insistence about how Aviation was really “all about the people” and while the machines are wonderful, and the flying was great, it was the people that made Aviation extraordinary. And as I turned 67 a few weeks ago, I find myself becoming more and more aligned with Paul's wisdom.

It’s all about the people. 

And it's those people that can determine what kind of future aviation might have from here. And it’s those people to whom I owe my best efforts with all the years left to me.

Mind you; I hope I have a couple of decades in which I get to serve Aviation BUT it's time for me to hunker down and do a far better job than I've done to this point, and most specifically to do so with a complete dedication to what's really going to be good for the future of Aviation and (among others) the kids who, today, stand outside airport fences and still dream.

I've been spending some time these last few weeks talking to a few of aviation’s best members... people who have served Aviation well and have developed extraordinary expertise in a number of Aero-disciplines. Throughout these discussions, a potential plan has been taking form.

Aviation needs Swift change -- starting with the Grassroots entry level of Aviation that has become all but ignored by the associations trying to find well-heeled benefactors, and cow-towing to anybody burning jet fuel.

Aviation needs to be far more dedicated to those struggling to get in, struggling to stay in, and to whom this pursuit is a true passion that they are willing to participate in and support as a dedicated member of a united community. 

Yes... the grassroots. 

If Aviation is to survive, we must rebuild it, even if we have to do it one flyer at a time, and so I'm seriously considering the initiation of a new effort, and throwing everything I have into the mix, in close association with some of the most trusted aviators I know, to reinvigorate the Grassroots Aviation community and help us all ReDiscover and Rebuild Aviation once again. It will compete with no one who has aviation’s best interests at heart, support all those trying to better our industry, and fill in the blanks and gaps that must be addressed to create a better community far into the future. 

I think that whatever effort might stand a snowball's chance in hell of success will have four major facets to it... and the first, of course, must surround a far better effort at targeting certain aspects of aviation education -- specifically those skillsets that are at the root of most of our avoidable accidents.  

There isn't a day that goes past here at Aero-News where I don't find myself looking through the NTSB reports for the day, and becoming appalled at the fact that we're killing innocent Pilots the same way every day, year after year. The reasons are simple and usually derive from one or more basic skill sets that were either poorly taught during the licensing process or pretty much forgotten once the ink dried on their certificate(s).

Aero-education needs a swift kick in the ass and a strong emphasis on VERY basic skill sets, maintaining competencies in each, all the while building a system where people are empowered to maintain them as long as they fly. Better yet, there has to be a system around it that popularizes and encourages such behaviors 24/7.

And then, there’s MOSAIC. Aviation has an exceptional opportunity ahead of it as soon as MOSAIC becomes the law of the industry (if it is as we expect to be published)... we watched a flawed LSA program still result in hundreds of new airplanes and thousands of new pilots. It wasn’t all that it could have been... but it wasn’t all bad, either. Imagine what could have happened without those flaws... 

So... MOSAIC. 

Mosaic has extraordinary potential as it gets the FAA out of much of our business, allows the industry to think for itself more and more, expands the capabilities of airplanes to the point where they become far more useful, and allows the industry to continue to innovate in a less restrictive environment. LSA Innovation was impressive, though the restrictions were still too much for the industry to reach its true potential... MOSAIC might fix that. 

In the meantime, though, the industries that have served sport and general aviation, are riddled with problems, more than a few con artists, and way too much confusion... so one other facet of the program that I'm building in my mind, suggests that we need a strong consumer protection and awareness program that helps people make informed decisions with credible confidence, extensive education and much greater awareness. 

Working directly with the industry itself to promote better business practices, and providing a substantial and credible level of education for the people who are building, buying, flying, maintaining, and otherwise just learning what it takes to be an airplane owner and operator are critically needed. Our much upgraded SportPlane Resource Guide boasts some exceptional new capabilities that change what was once a really useful tool into something altogether dramatically new and much more powerful. We mean it to be a humongous benefit for the next generation of aviators and we’re finally getting ready to pull the trigger on it. The all-digital eSPRG will never go out of date, boasts powerful new features, and can serve as the cornerstone of much of the efforts noted above.  

The third facet has to do with politics. The Aviation industry/community sits back and becomes the poor stepchild to every idiot who thinks their lives are more important than those of Flyers. I'm sick and tired of watching people move next to airports that have been in place for decades, and then start making noise complaints because the airport does what airports do, allow airplanes to fly. I’m sick and tired of watching aviation restricted and targeted in ways that other industries have escaped or avoided due to their political posturing. I’m tired of watching aviation targeted as a factor in problems in which we are just a tiny minority of the imagined issue. 

You've got short-sighted, aero-ignorant politicians who are trying to utilize aviation as a Whipping Boy for all manner of woke nonsense while ignoring far bigger culprits that produce lots more pollution, noise, access issues, and of course, safety problems. And of course... there is the jealousy factor that drives so much of the anti-aviation frenzy... and education problems that have yet to be addressed... as we are not all polluting fatcats out there making awful noises while looking to ram Grandma’s airliner. 

So... It's time for Aviation to start fighting back. We need to put the groundhog world on notice that if want to hurt aviation, to be prepared for a fight. 

That doesn't mean we have to be obnoxious... but it also means that we don't have to take much of the crap that's being shoveled our way as if we were doing something wrong in pursuing our dreams, our jobs, our passions, and our rights as free people. 

The same people who bemoan the lack of jobs, the costs of Industry, and so forth seem more than willing to destroy Aviation and its extraordinary contributions to this country (and others) for their own selfish self-aggrandizement... I strongly believe that we need to take some of these idiots on and stand up to the political bullying that aviation faces on a daily basis. 

So the political facet of this postulated plan means not having to roll over anymore, and to develop concepts, programs, allies, defenses, and even some occasional offenses, to stave off all those who would strangle Aviation at every turn. 

What we do is important. 

What we do deserves protection. 

We have a right to aviate and participate in all this, as flyers.

What we do is particularly American, and for those of you outside the US, it's also a uniquely free pursuit that celebrates The Human Condition in ways that many thousands have celebrated for more than 100 years. 

It's worth defending, and it's worth adapting new plans to not only defend it, but to start pushing back against all those who want to shut us down, close our airports, put ridiculous restrictions on what we do and where we go, and so many other ills. We are not a punching bag... and we need the outside world to know it. 

And finally; the fourth facet of this exercise is easily the most basic, and potentially, the most critical. 

I have watched Aviation come together against common foes on a number of occasions in past years, the most expressive of which was how we all came together in defense of one extraordinary man, Robert A ‘Bob’  Hoover, when he was unfairly targeted by a couple of FAA Goons who apparently wanted to take down somebody famous. 

I watched our community gather together and rally around in extraordinary ways to defend that man -- and as one of the Ring leaders of Bob's defense, it was not only empowering to watch this industry back a man who had almost given his life for us all on dozens of occasions, but it also showed me what this industry was capable of. 

So there is this... we need to rebuild our community to embrace that kind of spirit and cohesive action. We need to (re)build a spirit within Aviation that empowers us all to defend every Aviator, every Aviation-oriented person/business, and everyone who loves Aviation, no matter what kind of flying they participate in or enjoy, and we must learn to do it without reservation. 

There are a number of groups in this country with strong interests in certain activities that have managed to  hold off extraordinary foes, and whether you like them or not (NRA, ECO groups, etc.), you have to admire the fact that the Busy Bodies of the world and the ner-do-well politicians think twice before they mess with those communities. We can learn from them. 

The very basic foundation of Aviation, our Grassroots Flyers, need to be every bit as powerful -- and can be. Put those four facets together, and I believe Aviation can have a real future, one where the next hundred years of Aviation can be something quite extraordinary.

But... I can’t do this by myself... and even with the assistance and guidance of some extraordinary experts well suited to this mission (no kidding... the list is amazing), it's going to take much more than that... so, who wants to be a part of an exceptional experiment... one which may fail miserably... or just may rebuild aviation into something worthy of our future -- and that of our children. 

So... what's this really all about? 

No kidding... stay tuned. 



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