More Than Just Airshows

Today was National Aviation Day. CNN highlighted the day by writing about some of the major airshows left in the calendar year, one of which Connie and I plan to attend (i.e., MCAS Miramar). While I personally highlighted the day by taking the CTSW out for a short flight where I reviewed power on and off stalls, turns about a point, S-turns across a road, and power-off landings and captured it all with an on-board Go-Pro. I would love to have had a Young Eagle or an Eagle flight to do. I didn’t, but doing those flights is one way I give back and try to show others that aviation has more to offer them than they might think.

Last evening, I attended an Educator’s Evening at Lone Star Flight Museum. I was invited not because I am a volunteer there but because I am one of the Young Eagle coordinators for EAA Chapter 12 meeting at Ellington and I had participated in a Young Eagle rally held at the museum about a month ago. Kenneth Morris is the museum’s Director of Education and Outreach and our host for the evening.

Kenneth and I are both ex-Navy. He has shared with me he considered his time in the Navy as a “life-changing’ experience, and that is how I feel about my time in the service as well. It was my Naval service that opened the doors to my involvement in both civilian and military aviation and, eventually, paved the way for my involvement in manned spaceflight. Those were things I dreamed about but didn’t know or initially think there was a way in for me, a geeky, non-athletic kid from a lower middle-class family without a lot of resources to help any of those dreams out. I initially got to college on scholarship and by working my way through, though due to my own emotional immaturity and limited resources, that began to collapse during my sophomore year. It was a college program for Navy enlisted personnel that enticed me in and ultimately did become my bridge to a better life. I started out as an Airman and a jet engine mechanic and finished as a Lieutenant flying the backseat of an F-14. While I dared dream of being an astronaut, it became clear I wasn’t going to get the type of military assignments I needed to enhance my chances. Still, my experience and education (aerospace engineering) opened the door to the next best thing, i.e., working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a flight controller and astronaut trainer (mainly the latter). A decade of that (which included learning how to fly and teach how to fly space shuttle ascents and ascent aborts) led to another fourteen years as an operational safety engineer with shuttle and part-time work today with various NASA programs.

At heart, I am a teacher, which is why I have a Light Sport Flight Instructor rating and why I have been trying for the past few years to use my experience to give back. A few months ago, I started volunteering at the Lone Star Flight Museum as another extension of that, and I really love the place. It is more than a museum; it is a place to learn and grow. For many of us, it is a place to share with others our passion about aviation and, in doing so, hope to inspire people to learn, dream, while they’re having a good time. It makes aviation a means to execute the present as well as a hopeful door to the future.

Aviation affects everyone in some way, whether it is through the airline seats you purchase and use to see family or take vacations, the packages that get shipped to your doorstep overnight, the emergency flights that carry your loved ones quickly to critical hospital care, the TV helicopter that shows you how to get to work on crowded Houston freeways, the helicopters that pull you out of your flooded homes, or, for some of us, the replacement for the car that makes distant family visits possible and practical in otherwise too-short slices of time. In other words, it is as varied and multi-faceted as life itself.

No matter how you slice it, aviation is a lot more than just airshows.