From the Flight Deck: Renewal, An Orwellian Replica

From the Flight Deck: Renewal, An Orwellian Replica

From the Flight Deck: Renewal, An Orwellian Replica

re•new•al noun: The action of extending the period of validity of a license, mandatory in order to verify identity, trustworthiness, competence and compliance with mandates.

We get an email or text every time we leave the store, doctor’s office, movie theatre, bank or a restaurant. Someone is always probing us to doublethink our recent visits and activities. George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) would say I told you so. In our monitored and regulated society, thirtysome years after his dystopian Ministry of Truth forecast for 1984, it seems we need a permit, license, certificate or authorization to do just about everything.

One to drive a car, bus or big-rig, skipper a boat, captain an airplane or to ride a motorcycle. There’s one for scuba diving, hunting, fishing, trapping and to carry a concealed pistol. One to extract teeth, one for removing a gall bladder, one to practice law and another for performing surgery on our pets. There’s one for adding a deck, roof or a water heater to our chateau. And don’t forget the “till death do us part” license and certificate.

It’s a New Year and time to get our taxes ready, work on the New Year’s resolution and to submit reams of renewal documents to The Ministry.

“Who Are You?” The Who, 1978

Add to our Library of Licenses the need to renew and carry a bazillion ID and membership cards, the longevity of which varies from document to document but most expire annually and renewal is compulsory. There’s one for the union, Sam’s Club, AOPA, EAA, the aircraft-type club, health club, country club, the gun range and the marina. There’s a license plate or registration sticker for every machine from our cars, boats, RV’s and airplanes down to our four-wheelers, Wave Runners, snowmobiles and trailers, with a proof of insurance document required for all the above.

There’s a hang-tag for the employee parking lot, hangar, gated community and the time-share. And a passport or visa to enter another country and return to our own. There are company IDs to access the secure area around airplanes, ships, submarines, fissionable materials and corporate secrets. We then add eight-character, alphanumeric passwords, door keys and codes, biometric screening and sometimes, old-school security guards with varying levels of touching, scanning and intimidating weaponry. There’s a transponder for the toll road and the new-fangled ADS-B in our airplane transmits who, what, when, where and why to The Man.

“Who’ll Stop The Rain?” CCR, 1970

mo•ron noun: a stupid person. Synonym: idiot, dunce, imbecile, simpleton, dip.

Our lack of trustworthiness and the current multitude of regulations that govern registration and licensing began with the bite of an apple, self-awareness, some coverings and expulsion from an idyllic Garden. It appears this was just the beginning of our mortal, Orwellian odyssey. The long list of licensing has become a necessary evil, and I’ve discovered the reason: there are morons, dips and all manner of synonyms among us.

Some of these folks are not only those colorful words, but are dishonest cheats and are not qualified, competent or proficient in the simplest of regulated nor unregulated activities. Some don’t even stop at the stop line at intersections, can’t tell which fork to use first and leave participles dangling when they write. When I see one of them in a public, while driving, or hear one on the radio when flying (typically an infantile comment on guard), I can’t help but mumble the old Mickey Mouse TV theme song in which they sing the individual letters, “M-i-c-k-e-y, M-o-u-s-e.” I substitute M-o-r-o-n for Mouse and make it fit the jingle. It’s a great stress reliever once the words or actions of the offending moron have been recognized and pinned to their dairy-air.

It’s not you and I that are being singled out for registration, monitoring, licensing and harassment. It’s the morons, dips, imbeciles and fungus among-us. And through the permit, passport, certification and licensing processes, they are filtered and blocked and the honest, intelligent, non-morons pay the price. Admittedly, with a large basket of humble at the ready, I make plenty of occasionally moronic mistakes. But I try to not make them out loud, in public (especially not over the PA on the plane) or on purpose, and I try to never repeat them. When I do make one, the Mickey song pops into my head and I feel a humbling, reflective and head-shaking sense of disappointment. You may even hear me, in a submissive and apologetic moment of Orwellian double-think, hum the Mickey song and say, Kevin you moron.

“Up, Up and Away”
The 5th Dimension, 1967

A mile of road will take you a mile.

A mile of runway will take you anywhere.

Author Unknown

Pilots are by nature an intelligent, independent and free-spirited bunch. An Orwellian existence rubs us the wrong way. The morons and dips in our group are extremely sparse, and if any segment of society can recognize the trade-off between licensing, monitoring and freedom, it’s us. We recognize the value of professionalism, accuracy, relationships, careers, hobbies, the freedom of flying and the use of proper grammar in a sentence, often to a fault. We voluntarily submit to a long list of regulatory controls and ID verification in order to facilitate our ability to ride our motorcycle to the airport with our concealed pistol, fly to just about anywhere on the planet and partake in almost any activity that our hearts desire.

Whether in a beautiful balloon or airplane, on the water with a fishing pole, in the woods hunting or camping or on a secluded ski slope or golf course, it’s one of the reasons we became pilots: the freedom to get up, up and away. We enjoy engaging our surroundings unmonitored, unsupervised, oftentimes even unobserved. Most of us still enjoy both the up and the away parts of aviation. But for some it’s more the up, and for some it’s more the away.

After a career of interacting with 400 people every day, a few of them badly in need of that Mickey song, I still enjoy the up part while at work and in the Duke. However, the away part is becoming appealing. The up part, looking down on the world, has a very different meaning and implication than the common admonishment of “looking down on.” Few will ever know our perspective: the vistas, the phenomenon and freedoms we are blessed to experience when we’re up. The away part, whether while airborne or at our secluded destination, provides solitude and time for thought, appreciation, retrospection and a Zen like awareness of, well, everything those anchored to the ground can’t see or feel.


Pilots are in a self-motivated, high-achiever and often philosophical, almost transcendentalist, cluster of apple-biting, clothing-wearing, non-moronic mammals. And with our hobbies, side occupations and social visibility, we’re some of the most certificated, licensed, stickered, hang-tagged, evaluated, monitored, regulated and taxed of all segments in society. In Orwell’s Oceania language of Newspeak, this is ungood to our freedom.

One of the reasons we became pilots is the freedom to get up, up and away.

But even with all of the regulations, licensing and certification that we endure, it’s mostly painless because we’re not morons. But we need to start early on the renewals in case we run into one of those dips in the road that sees things differently or doesn’t see reason at all. So unless we want attention from the Ministry for evading taxes, concealing our pistol, unauthorized removal of a gall bladder or to get caught with our participles dangling, it’s time to purposefully negotiate the recurring regulatory gauntlet.

And so we begin the renewal process: the airplane’s inspection, our flight physical, recurrent training, license plates and registration stickers for all of our vehicles, insurance policies, updating ID and membership cards, changing passwords and completing our training, evaluations and qualifications.

“Jump!” Van Halen, 1984

Twin & Turbine is a boutique publication tailored to your airplane and your flying. Not only are we all similar because we are type A, high-achievers and pilots, but we fly similar airplanes on similar missions. We relate well to each other, we nod to each other in an acknowledgement of pilot-respect. We are a family. On my list of New Year renewals is this note expressing my gratitude for the time you spend reading news, our stories and the offers from our advertisers.

Also, a thank you to the folks that ran into me while out-and-about this past year and stopped to say hello. Whether at Oshkosh, an FBO, on my airline or at the hotels, it’s gratifying when I meet you in person. Thank you.

And yes, my mustache is greyer in real life than in my bio pic; thank you for noticing. I hope you enjoyed this classic rock and Orwellian infused to-do list for 2018. Turn up the tunes, jump on that list and don’t forget to watch over your shoulder for dips, morons and The Man. Have a happy and safe New Year. 

Few will ever know our perspective: the vistas, the phenomenon and freedoms we are blessed to experience as pilots.

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