“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
For the Pilots of Owner-Flown, Cabin-Class Aircraft. That’s what it says there on the cover, right under Twin & Turbine. Conversationally, we all just say “T&T.” It’s a boutique periodical for an elite and select few. Well, a select fifty-thousand or so that, as Honest Abe inferred, “have learned to hustle and to whom things have come.” You’ve told me that you are proud to carry it in the plane and to display it at the office. We who help put it together are grateful; thank you.
Having pride in how far you’ve come in your piloting career and airplane ownership is a well-deserved acknowledgement of ability and hard work… and maybe some luck. None of the magazine’s sub-title description of you, your airplane or your accomplishments are taken for granted by the advertisers, publisher, the editor or We the Writers. Like our national freedom, our aviation freedoms weren’t easy to obtain or maintain. Perhaps a prideful raising of our chin and a contemplative sigh is all right as we celebrate our independence this July.
The words in our magazine’s title were chosen with deliberation and purpose. “Pilot” is used to denote leadership, authority, control, diligence and trust; to guide and direct; to captain and shepherd – characteristics not unlike those of the brave souls that signed The Declaration of Independence. Not many folks are pilots and, if you read the other aviation magazines, you know that our numbers have dwindled. As far as the general population goes, they stand at the airport fence in awe, camera in hand, wishing they were you.
It’s not “We the People”, or “When, in the course of human events,”; our cover boldly proclaims: For The Pilots. That’s you, and the position you hold when in The Seat. You’re not part of the cabin crew or a chauffeured passenger and you’re not at the airport fence taking pictures; you are the picture. You’re not the financier, mechanic, baggage handler, fueler, scheduler or cleaner, although some, even all, of these titles may apply before you take the left seat and after you shut down. Most of the time we effortlessly shift between these hats and are pretty good at managing all of them. The task-compartmentalizer in you is part of what makes you a good pilot and helps you to engage laser-like focus when needed.
“Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But, to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.” – Captain A. G. Lamplugh, circa early 1930’s
Sometimes while in The Seat, the mission requires the undistracted ability to wear just one hat: that of the PIC. Like many professions, this one requires an ongoing commitment to education, training and practice in order to properly execute the responsibilities. Unlike most professions, however, if we display even the slightest carelessness, incapacity or neglect, to an even greater degree than the sea, it’s not uncommon for the airplane, the weather, the system in which we operate or bad luck (Ernie Gann called it fate) to slap us down hard. So hard, in fact, that we may only get slapped once. Unfortunately, and in the true fashion of a properly delivered slap, sometimes even the best of us never see it coming. We must therefore be diligent in our duties in order to avoid being surprised by that terribly unforgiving, one-time slap. How do we get there and do that? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall my friends: practice, practice, practice.
“I could be president of Sikorsky for six months before they found me out, but the president would only have my job for six seconds before he’d kill himself.” – Walter R. ‘Dick’ Faull, helicopter test pilot.
You do not just command the pilot seat; you are the owner of the seat. The airplane is Owner-Flown, the next descriptive term on the cover of T&T. It’s not a borrowed or rented machine and it’s not flown by a hired gun; you’re no pretender. Only in the movies can a novice be summoned from seat 28B or the board room, plop down in the left seat, don a headset, receive radio instructions from Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack, then fly an instrument approach to a survivable landing – inflatable autopilot assisted or not. As test pilot Dick Faull said, most would kill themselves in short order. Because of the complexity of the machine, its operation and the regulatory hurdles involved, the task of piloting and aircraft ownership is no small undertaking. It’s your doing that put the airplane in the hangar and made it available at your beck-and-call; it’s you that is the entrepreneurial gunslinger. Ownership represents an ability and convenience easily minimalized if unfamiliar with the comparatively sacramental process of public transportation. Recent articles in this column describe some of the components in the ownership and operation of your high-performance airplane and how, in fact, the very complexity of the endeavor is one of the things that draws us to flying.
“To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything.” – Otto Lilienthal
It was a magical time and they were all marvelous machines, but you’re no longer dangling below the high-wing of a trainer under the tutelage of an instructor. You’re not sitting atop a Hershey-bar wing droning along at 7,500 feet – new license in hand. And there’s no ballistic recovery chute to save you from fate or yourself. You’re likely not propelled by normally-aspirated, piston-produced horses and you no longer have the luxury of a large fudge-factor from the engineers. Turbocharged recips or jet turbines are your power source. Your glide ratio is less, the air is dangerously cold and thin where you fly, fuel disappears by the hundreds of pounds and a mile is consumed in the time it took you to read this sentence. Your altitude is called a Flight Level and the strength of your engines is described by shaft horsepower or pounds of thrust. The decisions you make are influenced by speed, often measured in Mach, by weather measured in RVR’s, runways available by Mu readings and your fuel by time remaining in minutes. Expenses are not measured by dollars, but by tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The final descriptive words in the magazine’s title is Cabin-Class Aircraft. Not quite as exalted as ‘Galaxy Class’ like the Starship Enterprise, and while it’s gratifying to have a key in your pocket that says CAT, Jaguar, or Trinity Yachts, airplane keys that say Piper, Cessna, Beechcraft, Gulfstream, Citation, Lear, Falcon, Daher, Mitsubishi, Hawker, or Pilatus are in a rarified class of their own.
Born To Be a Pilot
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway
I wasn’t born a writer, or a pilot for that matter – I have to work at them both. Thank you for elevating the bar and making it seem as if you were born a great pilot, even though we all have to work at it. Thank you for not flying as if each flight should be a demonstration of the performance envelope and for enduring the ongoing education, training and expense needed to remain a good pilot. For doing it right and making the rest of us look good. For upholding the trust of friends, family and the public. For having the courage to divert or cancel when the pilot-hairs stand up on your neck. And for helping dispel the myth that little airplanes always crash and that GA pilots are entitled hobbyists. But you know all of this because you have hustled and things have come to you. I’m grateful to be one of the writers for The Pilots of Owner-Flown, Cabin-Class Aircraft and to sign my John Hancock boldly upon on each story.
In addition to our regular fly-ing schedule, July provides an opportunity to attend sundry fly-ins, pancake breakfasts and fireworks. We’re in a unique position to view the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air from the plane if we choose, and fireworks are great, but not the metaphoric kind. Keep doing it right, so as to limit the drama and avoid any mechanical or procedural fireworks. As professionals, business leaders and educated Americans, we are also in a position to recognize political fireworks and challenges to our nation’s founding documents. As we gather with friends and family around the grill, pool, boat, golf course, and the airplane, to celebrate “a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed…”, We the Pilots know that nothing is free, especially freedom. We must assume a leadership role and check-six – aeronautically and metaphorically. Let’s continue cultivating the things that have preserved our freedoms and got us to where we are as T&T pilots, business leaders and as a Nation. Have a safe and happy July, my friends.