Aviation Ambassador

IMG_7947The dictionary defines an ambassador as, “a person who acts as a representative or a promoter of a specified activity or organization.” For me it simply means that when you really love something, you can’t help but share that passion with others. Recently I had the opportunity to share my love of aviation in some different and unexpected ways.

Runway 5K

In September the airport hosted its annual 5K on the runway benefiting Honor Flight. Volunteer to get up early on a weekend and spend the morning standing around on a runway? Heck yeah! Count me in! I offered to work at the water station in part because they needed people with SIDA clearances, but mostly because watching the sunrise from the airfield is a special kind of awesome. And also because they parked two bizjets right next to the water station. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend the morning with bizjets?

IMG_7944I wasn’t the only one enamoured with the airplanes. One of the race participants completely abandoned any pretense of running when she saw them. She pointed at the planes and said, “I’m not here for the race, I’m here for THIS!” The smile on her face made me realize that the airport 5K is so much more than just a race. It allows the community to connect with aviation and the airport in ways it wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

Perhaps my favorite moment came when several airliners got permission to use the taxiway closest to the race runway. The pilots opened their windows and waved at the runners as they taxied by. It was a HUGE hit with the participants. In the end we not only raised a ton of money for Honor Flight, but we strengthened ties with the community and maybe inspired a future pilot or two.

Industry Night

IMG_8264

Photo courtesy of OSU Center for Aviation Studies

In October I had the tremendous honor of being invited to attend Aviation Industry Night at OSU and take place in the panel discussion. I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into until I arrived at the event and discovered 200+ enthusiastic aviation students and alumni as well as a variety of industry professionals in attendance. When it dawned on me that I was actually going to be speaking in front of all those people I almost wished I had those bizjets from the 5K to hide behind!

IMG_7930There were three other people on the panel with me – an FO with a regional airline, a pilot with a private charter company, and a former airline pilot now flying business jets. We were asked to talk about our careers and we answered questions from the audience. I talked about my love of airports and how fortunate I am to work for one.

After the panel discussion was finished I spent time chatting with some of the other aviation professionals. I also talked with several of the students including one who is an accounting major! He wants to fly for the airlines but he figures an accounting degree might be useful if he ever needs a non-flying job.

North American Classic MG Magazine

IMG_9392Perhaps the most surprising outreach opportunity came as the result of a previous blog post. You may recall a few months ago I wrote about driving my 1954 MG to a nearby airport and taking a flight on a Ford Tri-Motor. Shortly after that post was published I was contacted by Larry Sanata, editor of North American Classic MG Magazine. He asked if he could write a piece about my passion for aviation and love of classic cars. Are you kidding me? Of course!

In the end he not only published an interview with me, but he also included my original blog post in its entirety. I think anyone who enjoys writing hopes that they might someday see their work in print. Seeing my post published in a magazine… Wow! I’m thrilled! The fact that it allows me to share my love of aviation with whole new group of people makes it even better still.

So… what about you? Are you an aviation ambassador too? There are plenty of opportunities out there so give it a try – you never know what might happen.

36707088_Unknown

Old Car, Older Airplane

35792000_UnknownEveryone knows how much I love airplanes. However, I’ve always liked classic cars too. A couple years ago I inherited a 1954 MG TF 1500 from my father. It’s not the kind of classic car I imagined I might have, but the more I’ve gotten to know it, the more I’ve come to love it. When I found out there was going to be a Cruise-In/Fly-In nearby I was super excited. Spend the day at an airport with airplanes AND classic cars? Oh heck yeah!

In a regular car on the highway it would take around 40 minutes to get to the Cruise-In/Fly-In location. However, the MG doesn’t go very fast. And it doesn’t go on major highways. It also doesn’t go if it is too cold. Or too hot. Or too wet. Or… You get the idea. Thankfully the weather was perfect for enjoying the back roads. Sure the drive took twice as long but it was totally worth it!

IMG_5895The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the airport was all the cars – they had a great turn-out for the cruise-in!  There were plenty of American classics, of course, but there were some imports as well, including another old MG. There were also a lot of airplanes. The fly-in covered just about every aspect of aviation you can think of. There were drones and RC planes. There were flight simulators. The NASA “Journey to Tomorrow” traveling exhibit was there along with a shuttle astronaut who was signing autographs. Several university aviation programs had booths set up. And of course they had rides – a helicopter, a bi-plane and a C-47 were all coming and going with passengers on board. However, I was most excited about the Ford Tri Motor.

IMG_7685

I’ve been wanting to fly on a Tri Motor ever since I first saw one parked at my airport several years ago. There have been Tri Motor rides offered at other nearby airports and it’s always on my list of things to do at Osh, but somehow I’ve never been able to make it happen. I was not about to miss out again. I headed straight for the registration table and got signed up for the very next flight.

Production of the Ford Tri Motor airplane began in 1925. This particular plane, the “City of Wichita/City of Port Clinton,” was built in 1929. That’s right – the Tri Motor is 25 years OLDER than my 64-year-old MG! I always breathe a sigh of relief when the MG successfully completes a road trip without breaking down. And yet here I was, cheerfully boarding a much older airplane. Was I nervous? No, not at all.  Was I excited?  Absolutely!

 

As I climbed up into the plane I was struck by how different the interior is compared to commercial aircraft today. For one thing, it has wood paneling. It also has cushy seats similar to what you might find in an old movie theater. No issues with legroom here! I especially loved the big square windows which provided an exceptional view of the world outside. The taxi out and take-off were much smoother than I expected and as we lifted off the ground I realized that it has been over two years since I was last flew. Oh my goodness it was WONDERFUL to be back in the air!

IMG_7801

Me and my shadow…

We circled around the airport a few times and I was able to pick out many landmarks below. I was seated towards the tail so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the cockpit very well. I did notice, however, that some of the gauges were out on the wing so the pilot had to look out the window to view them. This reminded me of the MG’s “side view” mirror, which is positioned up on the front fender. It seems odd, but it works! I spent most of the flight soaking up the thrill of being in the sky, and trying to imagine what it must have been like for the plane’s first passengers all those years ago.

 

Time flies (literally) when you are having fun and before I knew it we were back on the ground. Although the flight was over, the afternoon was just getting started – there was still so much to see and do!  I spent the rest of the day checking out the various planes, enjoying the classic cars and chatting with people about the MG.

If you’ve ever wanted to go for a flight but have balked at the cost of riding on a B-17 or B-29, you really should check out the Tri Motor. At just $75 it is quite affordable and trust me, it is worth every penny! But watch out – once you do it, you’ll want more. After swearing I’d never fly in an open cockpit, I suddenly find myself keen to try a bi-plane ride. Stay tuned!

Authors Note: Check out the latest episode of Podcasting on a Plane!  Host Brandon and I talk about my visit to the ATC tower at Oshkosh, my very first experience with an ATC simulator program and my adventures on the deice pad. We had a lot of fun so give it a listen!

35791632_Unknown