Your Editor’s Log, “On With the Shows!” [May 2016], drove home an important point that is easy for us to forget in our sometimes hectic activity at aviation events—we are all ambassadors for general aviation, whether we choose to be or not. Sometimes that means interacting with people outside our world in ways that we don’t feel comfortable with, but it’s vital to put our best foot forward in such situations.
In early 1932 air racer Steve Wittman of Oshkosh arrived home in his tiny red homebuilt raceplane, Chief Oshkosh, to a hero’s welcome after winning the American Air Derby in Miami, Florida. Everyone wanted to see him and his airplane.
Chief Oshkosh was taken to the lobby of the First National Bank in Oshkosh for display. The public’s response was overwhelming: Over 2000 people spilled into the bank’s lobby in the first two hours of its opening, and people were constantly touching the airplane.
Some were concerned that its fragile fabric or other components could be damaged. Wittman, however, understood the need to allow the public some leeway in the name of promoting aviation. “Yes, something might happen,” he told a reporter. “The plane stood up in the terrific grind of race competition, and I guess it can stand this,” he said.
People will judge aviation by the image you project. Our future depends on all of us projecting a positive image.
Your May editorial gives the impression that we are under some sort of obligation to give public access to our aircraft when they are parked at an aviation event. I do not think non-aviation personnel should be given unsupervised access to private aircraft, period. Ignoring damage to the aircraft, all it takes is one kid flipping a prop with an accidentally ungrounded magneto for a disaster to occur.
I’ve shown our airplanes to non-pilots many times, under supervised conditions, including letting kids sit in them. That, to me, is a far less dangerous and more fruitful approach.
I’m aware that some of the larger fly-ins now allow unsupervised public access to aircraft. I’m forced to wonder if this was done to sell more admissions to the general public and thus increase profits, rather than to promote aviation.
–Jim B. Belcher
The best editorials strike up a little discussion and provoke some thought. We’re happy that this topic did both. We’re not in any way suggesting that pilots have an obligation to leave their airplanes unattended for general public access—we just want owners and builders to think about how they interact with the public and how that affects everyone. Yes, it may be better to stay away from some events, especially if you can’t stay with your plane.—Ed.
Just a short note—will “Stressing Structure” be back? I always looked forward to David Paule’s articles.
Stressing Structure has run through the entire series that David originally intended to write. However, he has hinted that he has additional topics, such as the one in this issue. Glad you enjoy it, and hope we can bring you more.—Ed.
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