by Rod Hightower
Experimental Aircraft Association
After the winter and spring we had in the Midwest over the last six or seven months, there’s a tremendous amount of pent-up energy to get our aircraft into the air. We’re now into the months where those glorious sunrises, serene sunsets and weekend flying adventures fit into our calendars and weather forecasts.
I know that feeling very well, especially each time I look at my Stearman and eagerly await the next time I can enjoy the thrill of open-cockpit flying. Even hanging out at the airport takes on a friendlier feel during these months, as hangar doors are open and it’s easy to wander next door to see what’s going on with our fellow aviators.
Since the start of the year, I’ve made more than 20 presentations and Grassroots Pilot Tour visits throughout the country, but mostly in the Midwest. It’s been a great opportunity to do some hangar flying with EAA members and other aviators. Regardless of the site, once February and March come around, it’s always easy to tell that the flying itch is coming back for everyone.
As eager as we are to get back to regular flying in the summertime, there are several things to remember. First, of course, is safety. While we’re busy changing the oil and polishing the fuselage for some summer flying fun, let’s remember to make sure that our flying skills haven’t diminished over the winter months. It’s OK to spend an hour with a flight instructor or take a little additional time to make a few extra touch-and-goes or crosswind landings to regain that comfortable feeling in the cockpit.
I mention that because it’s low-speed maneuvering that is the biggest single cause of GA accidents. Those landing and takeoff abilities are best honed through practice. As pilots, we can never simply take those skills for granted, especially if this past winter greatly curtailed our flying hours.
As the FAA continues its “Transforming GA Safety” initiative and an effort to reduce the number of GA accidents by 10 percent by 2018, the agency will keep an eye on the circumstances of both the pilot and aircraft involved in a mishap. It’s up to each of us to keep our skill level high so we can bring down those accident figures without resorting to any additional regulation.
While safety is always the top priority, sharing the passion for aviation is essential. There’s no better time to welcome someone to the world of flight than during a beautiful summer morning or evening, whether that person is an old friend or a Young Eagle. (A quick reminder that International Young Eagle Day is Saturday, June 11, so get out there and fly some kids!)
If you take a non-aviator flying, remember the flight is not about showing off your dazzling pilot skills – it’s about making sure you have created a friend of aviation or, we hope, a prospective aviator. We each must remember to do everything we can to make a flight experience a positive and unforgettable one for our passengers. Each of us needs to do our part to create the next generation of aviators, so welcome others to discover that special “thing” about flying that we already know.
It’s also “fly-in” season here in the Midwest, so I encourage you to explore other airports, maybe even one where you’ve never landed before. And I would be remiss if I didn’t extend a personal invitation to join us for the biggest one of them all – EAA AirVenture Oshkosh,
July 25-31. Many of our visitors and volunteers come from our own home Midwest region, so you’re definitely among friends.
After coming to Oshkosh for years as an EAA member and aviator, it’s going to be a change to be inside the kitchen, so to speak, this year. My role will be to watch and learn the many things that take place here and the hard work of the thousands of volunteers that make AirVenture happen.
No matter how big things get at Oshkosh, it’s always the individual small things, such as a new skill learned, or meeting an old friend on the flight line, or finding that special aircraft part, that makes AirVenture memorable. I hope you’ll be a part of it this year and that I’ll have the opportunity to meet you on the flight line as I discover the event in a new way this year as EAA President and CEO.
So, have a great summer and spend it the best way I know how: Let’s go aviate!