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Living the #Avgeek Life Vicariously Through Others

As life is wont to do at times, my life has been so busy and back and forth recently that I haven’t been able to enjoy the aviation world as much as I would like to recently.  I’m not complaining as I have really been enjoying the time I have had with my family.

However, I do long to get back in the air, and to just be around airplanes again.  I think living on an Air Force Base gave me a little relief in the past because I at least got to see airplanes every single day, even if I didn’t get to fly on them.

Fortunately, all of my friends on Twitter stay super busy at aviation events all over the world.  It is fun to live vicariously through all of you with all of the pictures and videos and other messages that I get to see.  You all do a wonderful job of painting beautiful pictures for the rest of us who can’t be there.

I think that is one of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place.  I just wanted to share the cool experiences I was having that others may not be so lucky to have.  We all have something to share in some realm of the world so I would encourage you to do that.

Many people may think they have nothing of value to share, but I guarantee you there are people out there that would love to hear about your experiences, no matter what they may be.  We all have so much good to share in this world so don’t be afraid, and put it out there.

October 8, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

An Awesome Avgeek T-shirt to Support Adoption

Our family is about to grow by one.

I really hesitated on posting this as I am not someone who enjoys asking for money, but after seeing the willingness of the amazing avgeek community to contribute, I figured it was worth a shot.

As you can see from the above picture, it is a pretty awesome t-shirt that I am talking about, and it is in support of an even more awesome cause: my new son’s adoption.

If you would like to read the full story please head on over to our adoption blog, but if you just want the highlights, here you go.

My wife and I have talked about adoption since we got married almost ten years ago, but it was just never the right time, until we moved to Japan and met some friends in my new squadron that were adopting from China.  To make a long story short, after about eight months of paperwork and waiting, we were paired with our new son that we have named Ty Drechsel Lynn.

Our new son Ty Drechsel Lynn.

We are now within about two months of traveling to China and just trying to raise whatever funds we can to help make that happen.  I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people I hardly even know,  and in some cases don’t know at all.

If you would like to buy one of these awesome T-shirts and help with some of our expenses then I would greatly appreciate it.  There are a lot of great causes out there so thanks in advance for your support.

February 7, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Year In Review: Operation Christmas Drop 2015

Yeah, I know it has been more than a year since I promised this video, but here it is finally.  While I am by no means a professional video maker, there is some pretty awesome footage in there.

Operation Christmas Drop 2015 was the 64th annual edition of this humanitarian operation, making it the longest running humanitarian aid mission in DOD history.  Over a seven-day period we dropped to 56 islands covering more than 2 million square miles of mostly water.  To give you some perspective, that is an area larger than the continental United States.

This was the first year that the US Air Force was joined by the Royal Australian Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and it was a tremendous success.  All three nations gained valuable knowledge and experience from this amazing operation.

I have done some amazing things over the past year, but I honestly don’t know that I could ever have more fun flying than I did for this week.  Cruising out at altitude for hours and then descending into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and picking out an island that is less than a square mile in area is incredibly fulfilling.

As you level off over the islands you see the bluest blue waters surrounding stunningly green palm trees with small groups of people waving and excited to see you.  It is hard to imagine a more remote location and that makes the airdrops that much more challenging.

Normally we airdrop on surveyed drop zones with ground controllers that increase our situational awareness by giving us winds and ensuring the drop zone is secure.  In this case we have to estimate the winds ourselves, and make multiple passes to ensure that we drop in a safe location free of people and structures.

While this can be extremely challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding to see all of the countless hours of training we do pay off as we deliver Christmas to people who wouldn’t receive it in any other way.

It is a little weird to celebrate Christmas in the toasty region of Guam and the South Pacific, but I also can’t think of a much more rewarding and fulfilling way to enjoy the season.

While I am no professional video maker, I hope you enjoy the footage, and I would love to hear any comments you may have to share.

 

January 18, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

2016+ Year in Review

I know it is cliche, but I really can’t believe another year has gone by.  Even more unbelievable to me is how much I have actually done this year, and some of the incredible experiences that I have had.

With all of the time I have spent all over the Pacific I have neglected this writing, which I am just now realizing was a sort of therapy that I have also been missing out on.  Such is life though and all I can do is work at getting back into it.

So rather than try to cram everything into one post, I am going to work on getting out one a week or so which will hopefully give me some time to really internalize everything I have learned this year, while at the same time not overwhelming myself and then just giving up.

So here is a quick overview of some of the things I will be writing about over the next few months:

Operation Christmas Drop 2015–  I have mentioned this before, and a year later I am going to actually get to it.  I was on a crew for this operation which was an amazing opportunity to fly all over the islands of the Pacific bringing Christmas joy to people who live about as remotely as you possibly can in this world.

Cope North 2016-  This is a massive exercise that takes place in Guam every year involving 8-9 different countries in this instance.  Once again I was on a flying crew, which was one of the best crews I have ever flown with.  This was the first time I had ever trained with fighter aircraft which was a whole lot of fun.  As well as visiting some pretty historic sites.

Balikatan 2016-  Another large-scale exercise but in the Philippines.  For this exercise I went as a mission planning cell chief working at a location we had never fully manned before.  While I didn’t get to do any real exciting flying, it did really open my eyes to the time and effort that is required to pull off these vitally important exercises.

Red Flag Alaska 2016-  Surprise, surprise, another exercise, though most people who have interest in military aviation have likely heard of it, or at least the Nellis AFB version.  While I was back to flying for this exercise, it is structured differently than the other exercises so I also did a massive amount of mission planning.  It was some of the most incredible flying I have ever done, with a fun crew, and some amazing off duty time in the awe-inspiring Alaskan mountains.

Becoming an evaluator  Not exactly an exciting flying adventure, but something that has shaped the way I view being a flyer.  I have written numerous times about how much I love instructing, and evaluating has only deepened my love of instruction, but on a much deeper level.

Operation Christmas Drop 2016-  This year I went as the mission planning cell chief and there are few times I have worked so many hours and felt so completely fulfilled by what I have done.  To be very clear, there are a lot of people who did a lot of work to make this operation happen, and it was an honor to be a part of it.  It will be hard to beat the value of this experience in my life.

So there it is.  I am sure I forgot events that I will write about as well.  It seems so short listing them all like this, but I am excited to go back and relive all of these experiences again.  I know it will put a lot of smiles on my face, and I hope that you will find some enjoyment from reading about it.  Thank you for all of your support in the past, and I look forward to your comments in the future.

January 6, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A New Year, Some of the Same Thoughts

I’m not really sure where I am going with this post, but I find that sometimes just writing about the things that are on my mind can help me come up with solutions, or at least help me to feel more comfortable with my decisions.

I am at the point in my flying career where a change of some sort must happen and I have some mixed feelings about which direction that I want to go.  It doesn’t matter if you fly in the civilian wold or in the military, change is just a part of the industry, and as technology improves, sometimes we are forced into change whether we want it or not.

In my case The C-130H is finally being entirely replaced by the C-130J in the Active Duty Air Force.  I had previously thought my time in the Herk was going to be over a couple of years ago, but as luck would have it, I got almost another two years, and some of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life.  Unfortunately, the end is officially here, and I have to make some changes.

The Air Force is more than happy to retrain me into a new airframe, or more likely just another version of the C-130, but that would most likely mean a move to the Special Operations community, and that is just not the right place for me and my family situation.  The other options leave me in essentially the same position again in a few years as they phase out their navigators, and would ultimately lead to every aviators’ worst nightmare, flying a desk.  There is one opportunity that would keep me on the beloved Herk, and on active duty, but unfortunately bureaucracy has made that not an option.

That leads me to the path that I am likely to take at this point.  The National Guard and Air Force Reserves are still chock full of H-models, and every unit in the country, except maybe Texas, is hurting for experienced Navigators.  After much deliberation with my wife and some trusted advisers, I have come to essentially the same conclusion that Rob Burgon over at TallyOne did as he reached a similar transition point.

Moving to the National Guard allows me to keep flying the plane that I love while also being able to put my family, and our future, first.  If I am being honest though, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities I am leaving behind by making this switch.  There is obviously no way of knowing what the future down either path would bring, but it is in my nature to wonder what could happen.

As I write this, I find myself feeling more and more certain that making the switch is the right move, and that it will pay the greatest dividends in the long run.  I wish I had more to say in terms of certainty and knowing that the whole thing is going to work out as I would like, but then that would not be military life would it?

If I had anything to pass along to others who may be in some sort of similar situation I would say stick with your heart and don’t be afraid to pursue a path that is different from what you intended or that others expect of you.  Listen to those that have gone before and take into account as much information as you can, but at the end of the day you will find happiness doing what you love and are passionate about.

January 1, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

What is The Goal of Aviation?

I am still collecting some videos from Operation Christmas Drop so that post will have to wait a little longer, but there is another topic that has been on my mind a lot recently that seems applicable at this time of the year.

The new year is a time when it is extremely common for people to make resolutions which are really just another name for goals.  People generally think about weight loss, money, and other personal concerns when it comes to setting these goals.  Goals are an important part of any real success in this world which is why it is important to make them and do everything possible to reach them.  This is true for people as well as businesses.

No matter if you are a person, business, industry, non-profit, or any other group for that matter, you must understand what your main goal is if you are to find any level of success.  Once you understand your main goal, you can then set secondary goals to get you to your main goal.  This whole line of thinking started for me a couple of months ago when I read the book The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  There are many great business insights in the book, as well as many other insights that are applicable to individuals as well.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for something to read.  It reads as a novel, not a business textbook so it is actually quite pleasant to read.

The main insight that drives the rest of the story is that a business must first understand what their main goal is, as I already mentioned.  Once we understand the main goal all of our efforts can be focused on accomplishing it, and anything that stands in the way of that goal can be removed or worked around.  Spoiler alert, the main goal of every business is to make money.  If you want to get more details, read the book.  For the purposes of this post I pose the same question for us lovers of aviation who anxiously want to promote its growth.

What is THE Goal of aviation?

For aviation businesses the goal is the same as any other industry, to make money.  Without that they go out of business and any other goals, no matter how noble, are lost forever.

Aviation organizations like AOPA, AAAE, NBAA, WAI, and numerous others all have similar goals of promoting aviation but generally focus on one particular group like business flyers or women.  They all provide invaluable support to their constituents and the industry as a whole, but they are not really unified in working towards one particular goal.  I am not really surprised though because I don’t know that I have seen a legitimate, unifying goal put forth by anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, many have put forth great ideas, but nothing has really been effective, or else I think we would have seen more growth because people generally do pretty well when they have a clear goal set before them.

Dan Pimentel presented a great goal around this time two years ago of increasing the pilot population to 1 million through focusing on bringing more girls and women into the industry, so is THE goal simply to increase the number of pilots?

I also had an interesting discussion with someone last year about creating an incentive program, possibly through AOPA, where participants could get discounts at hotels, rental car companies, entertainment venues, and other businesses that pilots might utilize when flying to improve the quality of the whole experience.  Does that make THE goal a better experience for those who are already flying?

Eddie Rickenbacker is quoted as saying, “Aviation is proof that – given the will – we can do the impossible.”  This has been true from the Wright Brothers all the way up to Elon Musk and his groundbreaking Falcon 9 reusable rocket.  Aviation has pushed the limits of human ingenuity and innovation leading to developments that have benefited all of society.  So is innovation THE goal of aviation?

A few other potential options for our goal could be to transport people and goods, to connect the world in a more efficient manner, to safely accomplish all of the other things mentioned, or even to return the wonder to flying rather than the commonplace occurrence that it has become.

I don’t think that I have THE answer, but I do have a few thoughts that I hope might start a discussion amongst all of us so that we can focus our efforts to achieve this goal rather than to each pursue our own course of action and have our efforts not be as effective, because as we all know, the sum of our efforts can be much greater than our individual parts.

To start I think I may have already established a goal without even really thinking about it, we want to see growth.  Growth could be seen in many areas to include more pilots, more passengers, more planes, more use of airports, or any number of different metrics, and maybe all of them should matter, but what growth would really show is good health in the industry.  While I think my focus is really on general aviation, I don’t think we can segment the industry if we are truly to see growth.  For most people, commercial aviation is their only connection with flying so to exclude them would be to exclude one of our greatest resources.  Military aviation also provides a vital connection to the mass public as it is often what lights the fire in many individuals.

No matter which metric we choose to focus on, growth in and of itself is no guarantee of success.  A business can sell more product or generate more revenue and still go out of business because it is not managed well.  So I think we need to have more organized management of the industry.  Right now everyone seems to be working in their own little niche to “look out for number one” because no one has stepped up to bring us all together.  One would hope the FAA would play some role in that since aviation is their sole purpose, but we all know that will never happen.  But what is it about aviation that we could all rally around with all of our mixed agendas?  Not since the space race has the world as a whole cared more about aviation.  Maybe the new commercial space race will create some unity.

There is also no doubt that we need some innovation on the people front.  There is as much innovation as ever in aviation technology when you look at the 787, A350, and Falcon 9, but have we really changed the way people interact with the industry, maybe ever?  It is people that are going to keep the aviation industry healthy and we need to find a way to get the absolute most that we can out of those people.  It was people that made that first courageous flight at Kitty Hawk over 100 years ago, and it will be people that will keep aviation strong throughout the next 100 years.

I realize I have asked as many questions as I have given answers, but like I said, I would really love to see what kind of ideas we could come up with if we put our heads together.  There is no doubt that we will all be in love with aviation for the rest of our lives, but the question remains, what is THE goal of aviation, and what are we doing to accomplish it?

January 3, 2016 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Instructing May Be the Most Rewarding Thing I Have Ever Done

The mighty Herc is a dream to fly and there is always more to learn.  I learned a lot the last couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

The mighty Herc is a dream to fly on and there is always more to learn. I learned a lot the last couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

I wrote this post once and my site decided it didn’t like it so it all disappeared.  I guess I didn’t convey the message I should have so I will just have to give it another go.  Or maybe I just needed to read Ron Rapp’s excellent post on instructing to help me realize how important it is.

I don’t think there is much doubt about how much I love flying on the C-130.  It is such a versatile air frame that can do so much, especially when you consider how bulky of a plane it is.  As much as I have enjoyed flying on the Herc, I have found something that has been even more rewarding in the last few months.

The last thing that I did before leaving Arkansas was earn my instructor qualification.  Because I moved shortly thereafter, I never had the opportunity to instruct before leaving.  Add to that a good amount of leave and necessary ground training, and I went about three months without flying, which was essentially torture.  After a few indoctrination flights here in Japan, I was finally able to do some instructing, which has been more fulfilling than I could have expected.

It is such an incredibly amazing opportunity to share some small bit of knowledge with young, developing aviators.  I don’t claim to know everything, in fact the more I instruct the more I realize I don’t know, and the more I learn.  However, it has been so much fun to help build on the knowledge base that they already have.

All of my students have been fully qualified navigators which is really an interesting dynamic because they are capable of flying all by themselves, but they need me there for some particular aspect of their development.  What has been one of the most amazing things to me is that most of them don’t really need a ton of instruction, they really just need someone to put them in the right situation so they can learn from experience.

In reality, they really just need someone to express confidence in them so that they will have that confidence in the future when they look over their shoulder and there is no one there to help them find a solution to a problem.  I have been blessed with many of these types of instructors and I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to publicly thank some of them.

Jesse for being the first to really instill that confidence in me.  Right after I finished my initial C-130 training there was a decent chance that I would be up for a no-notice checkride by an evaluator from Air Mobility Command (essentially the people responsible for all mobility assets in the Air Force e.g. C-130, C-17, C-5, KC-10, and KC-135).  As you can imagine it was a little intimidating for a guy that had only flown without an instructor about three times at this point.  Jesse just told me not to worry because he had flown with me and he knew I would be just fine.  Just a few simple words, but they gave me the confidence I needed to do exceptionally well on my checkride, despite the best efforts of the pilot.

Ryan for always looking at the big picture when it comes to instructing.  There are all kinds of crazy minutiae that you can get into as an instructor, especially when you know as much as Ryan does, but he had an incredible ability to give you just the right amount of instruction so that you learned what you needed to learn, but never felt overwhelmed.

Tiffany for teaching me the ropes of Afghanistan, and showing me just how much fun it can be on the Herc.  She has this uncanny ability to go from all business to total goofball in the blink of an eye while at the same time remaining totally professional through it all.  She could always set me at ease and help me to understand how to work through problems in a way that could make the flying even more fun.

Chris for never letting me get by with just enough.  About a year ago as I was progressing through my lead upgrade training he realized that I had a pretty good break between flights due to the holidays and other constraints, so he came up with a couple of scenarios to work through.  It forced me to get into the books and made me realize just how much we have to understand to lead a formation, and ultimately to instruct well.

Phil is the only pilot that makes the list, but I can honestly say that I would not be the navigator that I am without him.  Phil sets an incredibly high bar and he expects everyone on his crew to meet that bar and raise it.  At the same time he has a knack for giving you the tools necessary to rise to the occasion.  Phil was my pilot at the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School which was some of the most fun I have ever had flying.  That is a whole different level of instructing when you have the ability to improve the other crew positions around you.

As I said before, all of these instructors, and many more, instilled in me a confidence that has made it possible for me to succeed in my career.  They each had their own unique way of approaching essentially the same material to provide me with the best possible bag of tricks to carry throughout the rest of my career.

I have no idea what my students thought of flying with me, but I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to instruct them.  It is fulfilling in ways that I never understood before having this opportunity.  My hope is that I can leave them with the confidence they need to succeed in the same way that others did for me.

December 20, 2015 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Are Avgeeks Hurting the Growth of Aviation?

My brother, the healthcare IT expert, tweeted something a couple of days ago that has really got me thinking.  He said,

“I wonder how often the jargon we use prevents people that could benefit from joining our various communities.”

I am well aware of how much jargon I use when talking about aviation because the other people I work with are well versed in this jargon, and it is just easier to use it with them.  When I go out with my friends, and our spouses or non flying friends are with us, it is hard to not talk about flying because it is such a huge part of our life.  My wife has grown used to this and does a pretty good job at engaging other people so that she isn’t just as bored as they are.

I know this is an American MD-80 but that is about where my knowledge ends.

I know this is an American MD-80 but that is about where my knowledge ends.

I must admit that even I have been uncomfortable around certain groups of aviation experts because I felt that my avgeekyness was simply inadequate to be in their presence.  I am pretty good at identifying most commercial aircraft though I am far from polished when you get into all of the different variants.  I doubt I will ever know which engines are on which aircraft, and I guarantee I will never know seating configurations or other things like that.  I just don’t have the spare brain bytes for that right now, or probably ever.

If I can feel uncomfortable in that environment, then I can only imagine how someone with even less aviation knowledge would feel.  There are a lot of people putting forth a lot of effort to try to increase interest in aviation, but I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t the ones standing in our own way.

It is one thing to show awesome pictures and videos or to even share a flight together, but how often do we scare someone off because we just know too darn much?  If someone is new to aviation and you get talking about Lycoming engines, or even worse high-bypass turbofans, then it is entirely possible you could intimidate them.  Even talking about relatively simple terms like crosswind, downwind, base, and final could scare them off if they aren’t ready for it.  None of us like to admit we don’t know something.

Even a simple beauty like this Piper Cub could scare someone off if they don't know the right jargon.

Even a simple beauty like this Piper Cub could scare someone off if they don’t know the right jargon.

I’m not saying that we should insult their intelligence or oversimplify the truly complex nature of aviation, but I think it is important that we be very careful with how we respond to people who show interest in this amazing community.

Avgeeks can be some of the most inclusive and friendly people I have ever met.  I have stumbled across friends from Twitter at various airports and ended up spending the rest of the day with them enjoying the wonders of aviation together.  These are people who I had never met in person, but that I had an immediate connection with because of our love of planes.

As I previously mentioned, I have also been amongst groups that left me feeling inadequate because of their ability to rattle off all sorts of numbers and statistics.  This is likely in large part due to my own insecurities, but I can’t help but wonder if other people feel the same way, and have been scared away from aviation entirely.

Aviation jargon is an incredibly important part of aviation, maybe even more so than most industries because of the time sensitive nature of what we do and the efficiency that jargon can provide.  Let’s be honest, it is a lot of fun to sound cool when spouting off a clearance, or trying to impress a girl by knowing all the pertinent data on Boeing’s newest aircraft (if you find a girl who is impressed by that hold on to her and never let go), but it could also scare someone off that is just too timid to think they could ever be that cool.

I’m not saying we need to eliminate this jargon, or even minimize it, because if we can’t sound cool while we look cool around planes, then what is even the point?  Am I right?  What I am saying is that we need to be very cognizant of how we are using that jargon to ensure that we are using it in ways that will be inclusive rather than exclusive.  We avgeeks are the only ones that will be able to rejuvenate general aviation, and ensure that it has the booming future that it deserves, and I know that none of us would ever want to scare someone away.

When in doubt start them on the basics.

When in doubt start them on the basics.

So the next time you ask a girl if she fell out of a B-17, cause she’s the bomb (I love that movie), make sure she realizes you are talking about an amazing airplane and not the latest development in cancer research.

October 26, 2015 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

C-130J Crash Reminds Me of the Dangerous Nature of Aviation

There are few sights more somber than the memorial honoring those we lost.

There are few sights more somber than the memorial honoring those we lost.

Flying is an inherently dangerous venture for man as we were created as land-dwellers with our eyes to the sky longing to be there.  Due to this inherently dangerous nature, I have often heard it said that if you stay in this business long enough you will know someone who loses their life in it.  This is a near certainty as a military member.

It turns out that it took five years for me.

As avid followers of aviation, I am sure you are all aware of the C-130J that crashed near Jalalabad, Afghanistan last week.  Very little has been released on the accident itself, which is good because it does no good to speculate before all of the necessary information can be gathered to understand what actually happened.

What has been released are the names of the airmen that lost their lives in this tragedy.  For many people these are simply names.  For others they are American Heroes, and rightly so because they are.  However, there is a small group of people who knew them, and I just happen to be one of them.

The first time I met Capt Jonathan Golden he was simply Officer Trainee Golden in the early days of Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base.  By no means were we close friends during our time at Maxwell, but I was always impressed with the quiet leadership of Jonathan.  While I never flew with him, I would imagine that he is exactly the type of pilot I would have loved working with.

It always impacts me as an aviator when I hear about a plane crash, and even more so when it is a military aircraft.  There is nothing we can do to bring these great servants back, but what we can do is learn from this accident so it never happens again, and we can hold them in our memory so that they are never forgotten.

So before you go and fly again take a moment to make sure that you are being as safe as you can be, and take a moment to remember the names Capt. Jonathan Golden, Capt. Jordan Pierson, Staff Sgt. Ryan Hammond, Senior Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris, Senior Airman Nathan Sartain and Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz.  They gave their lives doing something they loved so that we can all remain free.

October 5, 2015 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Discipline and Positivity Will Help Improve the Pilot Population as Much as Anything

Conditions are often not ideal, but when you work amongst positive people you can do amazing things.

Conditions are often not ideal, but when you work amongst positive people you can do amazing things.

There is an article I have seen circulating on social media about the pilot shortage and how airlines have largely brought it upon themselves through the way they treat their pilots.  While I don’t doubt that the airlines couldn’t treat all of their employees better (what company outside of Google couldn’t?), I found the article to be mostly a bunch of whining with a whole lot of contradiction.

The one area that I wholeheartedly agree with is that flying is becoming too darn expensive for the vast majority of people to pursue.  A select few may be able to secure scholarships, have rich parents, or survive a career in the military before going to an airline, but for the rest it will be a massive financial sacrifice to secure a good job flying planes.  No matter how much pride or excitement someone has for flying, if you can’t afford it, it will never happen.  That is the real challenge when it comes to people not becoming pilots.  I know it has been for me.

It all went downhill from there.

She goes on to mention how airline executives talked a lot about discipline in last week’s IATA conference and how that translates into cutting costs and charging passengers more.  However, the definition of discipline she provided was, “requiring punishment for bad behavior…”  So who exactly behaved badly here, the passengers who are being punished with increased fares and fees, or…yeah, I don’t see anybody else mentioned in the following paragraphs except for employees.  That is the real focus of the rest of the article.

I find it interesting that she chose to use that definition of discipline since she followed that up with plenty of examples of employees that could use a little discipline of the type she mentioned.  She also states that, “discipline is something you force, not something you earn.”  Which I completely disagree with because of the definition of discipline that I feel is far more applicable in this situation.  I prefer, “willing behavior in accord with rules of conduct.”  This likely stems from my military background and how I have seen both good and poor discipline affect outcomes. 

"Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world."

“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”

When personal discipline is present amazing things can be accomplished and the organization as a whole functions more efficiently, and with higher morale.  The exact opposite occurs when a lack of discipline is exhibited, which is when her definition of discipline comes into play.  Personal discipline is in fact earned through hard work and determination to do your very best against all odds.  It is exactly the type of discipline that allows the diligent pilot to wade through all of the crap the article mentions to get to that cockpit they dreamed about their whole life. 

If that discipline then fades away because of the actions of an employer, that is an indictment of the individual, not the employer.  So you don’t make a ton of money at first, neither do most people coming out of college with mountains of student loan debt.  You have to spend time away from your family?  So does every military member in the world, and I’m not just talking about deployments.  But that was part of the job I signed up for and I knew what I was getting into.  If you didn’t take the time to understand the demands of the industry you are entering then once again, that is your problem, not your employer’s.

A story is then shared about having a vacation cut short by the company that was scheduled by the company at the expense of the author.  That really sucks, and if I was there when you had to cut your vacation short I would empathize with you, and probably agree with your complaints, and then go about doing my job the right way, because that is the kind of discipline that makes a successful company from the bottom to the top.  Instead she proceeds to describe how she regularly wasted company resources such as fuel by extending flights, provided poor customer service because “why should I care about the passenger who will miss the connection…”, and brags about how, “there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”.

She submits that employees “aren’t doing anything wrong” when they act in these ways but therein lies the problem.  Just because you haven’t technically broken any rules does not mean you didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact the greatest contradiction in the article came right before that last quote, and it was easy to spot because it included the word “but”, “I was proud of my position, and I have a deep appreciation for my comrades, so I would never do anything to harm my professionalism, but there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”

You are not proud of your position when you reject your own personal discipline in favor of petty retaliation that has no impact on the person that upset you.  There is no professionalism in admittedly costing your company thousands of dollars because you didn’t like the way you were treated.  We all have aspects of our jobs that suck, but you deal with it if it means enough to you, or you find a new profession.  Discipline is not just punishment, it is a willingness and determination to do your best and to do the right thing because that is who YOU are, not because everyone else gives you what you want, or what you think you deserve.  That is what true pride in your position entails, standing tall because you did your absolute best despite the challenges you faced.

We live in a world right now where people call foul when everything doesn’t go quite their way, even when they signed up for it.  Many people are quick to point out the shortfalls of an industry or company or person, and want to place the blame for everything squarely on somebody else’s shoulders.  Nobody wants to take accountability for the role they played in the situation no matter how minor.  It is no wonder that we see this in our leaders because so many of us exhibit it ourselves.

Fortunately, she actually provided the answer to her own contradictions near the very end of the article, and I could not agree more with the assessment.  “Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”  WOW!  Those are powerful words that could not be more true.

The only way the next generation will be as passionate about aviation as we are is if we exhibited pride in our profession and discipline in our actions.

The only way the next generation will be as passionate about aviation as we are is if we exhibit pride in our profession and discipline in our actions.

If you stop and think for a minute, almost all of us can think of at least one person, if not many, that had a positive influence on our life that changed our world.  Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member, but their “positive ideology” inspired us to set and achieve goals that we never thought possible.  We saw the impact they had on us and we wanted to be like them.

We wanted to have an impact for good, but somewhere along the way many of us lost sight of that.  Instead we focus on the things that suck and how we were wronged by this person, or that stupid supervisor, or some company that screwed us over, and that is the ideology we have chosen to sell to anyone that will listen.  The relative anonymity of the internet has allowed us to project that negativity in ways never before possible, but there is absolutely no reason we can’t turn the tables  back in the other direction.

We can look at people like Ron Rapp who is quick to call out the FAA and other organizations when they damage the industry he has such a passion for, but also immediately follows that up with a solution that will meet the intent of proposed changes while at the same time improving the industry as a whole.

Or Eric Auxier who actively promotes the wonders of aviation to anyone that will listen.  He acknowledges the challenges he has faced, and continues to face, but chooses to have a positive outlook and focus on the good.

To quote something attributed to Abraham Lincoln in the movie Pollyanna , “If you look for the good, you will surely find it.”  That is true of everything in life, but is something that can be a great challenge if you never look for it.  It takes a concerted effort to get past all of the crap that happens and choose to focus on the good.

It bears repeating what the author said near the end of her article because it is the message she should have shared instead of the paragraphs of complaining and negativity that she chose to focus on.  I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this same challenge, which is maybe why I was so quick to recognize it, but all of us would be a lot happier, and our industry would be a lot more appealing if each of us would commit to the following phrase:

“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”

June 17, 2015 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.