July 30, 2008 - Theater in the Woods
Thanks, Tom [Poberezny]. I love coming here. Thousands of acres and thousands of planes. This is my idea of a parking lot. Oshkosh always helps me get centered. I must say that it’s easy to get caught up in the daily operations of the system — the back and forth with the airlines, the lines at the big terminals, and the weather that always seems to hit in time for the evening rush.
If you let yourself focus on that too much, you can lose sight of the backbone of aviation, the grassroots group that really gives America wings. I’m talking about recreational aviation — you, the EAA, Tom. This is the place where the rubber meets the sky.
I don’t know if you know it, but there are more than 600,000 airmen in the system and the bulk of them are people like you. I remember getting my ticket in a T-34 Mentor at the Naval Academy and I knew I’d found my place. When you’re up there, the ground never looks greener, the scenery never looks so breathtaking. As Tom told you, I went on to F-14s, 15s, 18s and the 737. But you never forget that solo.
I think we’d all agree that feeling’s what it’s all about. From the time you start that takeoff roll — after the checklist, with your head up — there’s nothing like that feeling. Flying lets us take it all in with a peaceful, unmistakable calm that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s breathtaking. Now that I think of it, Capitol Hill also takes my breath away sometimes, but that’s a story for a different day.
If you check just about any front page, you can see that aviation is going through a transition period. The price of gas is changing how we fly — recreational and leisure flying especially. But regardless of the cost, we’re all still on top of the game safety-wise, and we’re never going to let that change. There will never be a cutback in safety.
Even with those headlines, general aviation is as safe as it’s ever been. There are things we can work on, but as pilots, that’s our job. Everybody understands that.
For us as pilots, the training has never been better. The equipment is making it easier for us to make the right decisions. The situational awareness is absolutely terrific.
It’s true that we all need to do a better job on the runway, especially with following instructions. A number of times, I’ve seen it go like this: hold short, read back and roger that, and then he goes anyway. We had one within the last month where an incursion followed two read-backs. That’s something that keeps me up at night. But that’s something we can all address with some extra vigilance. And I know Tom’s on top of it, as is Flight Standards. I encourage you to be part of that solution as well.
You know, the FAA is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. You’re going to hear from an astronaut about NASA’s anniversary. But in either case, whether you’re reaching for the sky or whether you’re trying to slip through the atmosphere, I’d encourage you to soar higher than you think you can. Especially for you youngsters out there who don’t yet have your license. I’m telling you right here right now to go for it. Trust me on this. Whether you’re at a thousand feet, or 62 miles up, it’s well worth the ride. And the view — well, that’s breathtaking — and that’s what it’s all about.
It’s now my pleasure to introduce four men who’ll be receiving national awards. If you’re looking for the face of aviation safety, here they come.
Russ Callender of Houlton, WI, has been selected by the General Aviation Awards program as the 2011 National Avionics Technician of the Year. Joe Morales of Lakewood, CO, has been selected as the...