AIN Blog: Dude, I'm Not a Fossil

 - October 10, 2012, 1:11 PM

Someone intimated I was old this week. Well, actually what he said was, “Dude, you’re so a fossil.”

“I have a Facebook page,” I blurted out in my defense.

“Lame,” was the response.

At the very least, if I’m going to be insulted it should be with proper grammar. It was, after all, a high-school junior radio and television journalism class. I was invited to talk about journalism as a career. What prompted the fossil comment was my mentioning the interesting people I’d gotten to know as a journalist. I told them I had met and become friends with such interesting people as Scott Crossfield.

Blank stares.

“You know, the first guy to go twice then three times the speed of sound.”

Fossil comment.

“He trained Neil Armstrong!”

Deer-in-headlights look from the students.

You remember the Wright Brothers, right?

One student thought they were from Saturday Night Live and in “that old movie about some guy who got out of prison and started a band.”

The rest of the class leaned heavily toward aviation and less toward journalism. No one could put World War II or Vietnam within 50 years of the actual dates; only two students had even heard of the Korean War.  Paul Tibbets, Chuck Yeager, Burt & Dick Rutan, Bill Lear were all foreign.

Not a single student had ever given a thought to a career in aviation and, except for one student whose father was a private pilot, no one knew anything about aviation. They knew there are pilots, a few figured out there are mechanics but no one could name any other aviation-related occupation.

At a time when our industry is growing worldwide and demand for pilots and mechanics exceeds the number of students, it is chilling to think there may be no next generation, at least not one of any significance. We’ve fallen down on the job of promoting our industry and if we don’t get better at it, that failure will come back to haunt us in the not-too-distant future.

Adopt a school; be an aviation resource. Talk to students, start a Boy Scout Aviation Venture Crew, get involved. If you have a successful business you might consider starting a scholarship for post-secondary education students going into aviation.

And I’m not a fossil. I typed this blog on my iPad while having dinner in a restaurant and emailed to my home computer connecting to the Internet via my hand-held Five-Spot portable WiFi. I checked to be sure it was successfully mailed by looking at my incoming email on my iPhone. When I got home it was in my email inbox on my computer. (Admittedly, that computer shares a desk with my 1974 IBM Correcting Selectric Typewriter.) OK, I’m a retro kind of guy. I even have a 25-year-old waterbed.


Maybe in the rest of the world, but the US has no such pilot shortage and never will in my lifetime! As far as not promoting the industry as a career, the US airlines have taken care of that. Who in their right mind would spend upwards of $100,000 for training with so little in return for that investment. A regional flying job at less than $20,000 a year? Multiple layoffs resulting in starting over on the seniority list and wages with a new company? No more pensions left for retirement except for the worthless 401K. Lousy quality of life for those who have a family due to being on the "road" so much. Most pilots I know who have children would prefer that they find another career choice rather than aviation. I still enjoy flying very much and still do some VFR flying on my own. But now knowing what I know about the industry would I do it as a living like I do now if given the chance to do it all over? No! I would do something else for a living and keep aviation only as a hobby.

Matt, your view of aviation is certainly valid for you but I know many pilots and mechanics who love their jobs. The simple fact is no job is 100% wonderful; that's why they call it work. I have a friend who flies a corporate jet and he always refers to it as having an office with the greatest view in the world.

Don't misunderstand, I still love aviation. After 11 years of doing it for a living I now have a more realistic view about it as a career. Just as long as anyone who chooses aviation as a career knows about the downfalls of this business before putting out thousands of their own dollars for training. Schools that push the so called "pilot shortage" are doing more disservice to aviation than anyone who has been expressing any unhappiness flying for a living.

I teach at a FAR 147 maintenance training school, and have personally met young people who have no clue as to what aviation is all about, but I am trying to correct that in my own part of the world.

I am a Boy Scout Aviation Merit Badge Counselor, I host and participate in the local Girl Scout Aerospace Day. I support the EAA Young Eagle Flights, and both of my sons have flown with the EAA pilots. I take my aviation students to the local schools (K-12) to do show and tell sessions with the schools,and I bring in the High School guidance counselors for some hands-on exposure to aviation maintenance practices. My oldest son met Bill O'Brien at an IA Renewal Seminar, when he was 8 years old.

Do something, anything you can to let the young people know about all aspects of aviation. Freshmen here at the University who haven't declared a major are offered the opportunity to tour our program and see what is available - some have transferred out of a 4 year degree progam track (with no job prospects on the horizon at all) into our program, graduated, and went to work.

I'll admit, I, too, am a old - but I'm a dinosaur, not a fossil. It took me awhile to use texting, but if it is the best way to reach a young person, it is a tool.

Let the young people decide what they are going to do with the information provided, but give them some. There's lift, and then there's drag. Which best describes you? I'd rather be lift.

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