AIN Blog: That’s What Families Do

 - November 25, 2011, 10:39 PM

This week I did the most difficult thing in my life: I brought my 13-year-old golden retriever, Megan, home from the intensive-care unit to die. I lay down next to her at her favorite napping spot in the house and my 14-year-old golden, Rocky, her life-long companion, lay on the other side. Despite being gravely ill, Megan knew she was home, knew who we were and even poked her favorite, plush squeak-toy with her nose. I petted and talked to her until the end.

Megan wasn’t the first. I’ve had goldens for more than 20 years and have gone through this with every one. I have always sworn I would never let one of them die alone in a strange place and among strangers, and so far I’ve made good on my word.

Was it difficult? It was worse than having rockets fall around me in Vietnam or going through a door as a deputy with my gun drawn and not knowing if I would walk out. It was the toughest thing I have ever had to do, but Megan was family and that’s what families do.

I cannot fathom how people can drop off their pets at a veterinarian, tell the vet to put them down and then walk out the door. How could you do that to a loyal family member, a pet who has always been there for you and then, in its final hour, you abandon it? It has been said that the true measure of people is how they treat waitresses and dogs. Increasingly, people are abusive to both and it mirrors society.

We have become fractionalized seekers of self-gratification. As Gore Vidal wrote, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” We’ve lost our cultural sense of being part of the great family of life.

If pilots don’t believe mechanics deserve equal pay; if the FAA doesn’t stop thinking of punishment, rather than helping a company succeed safely; if U.S. repair station employees don’t quit believing a European MRO has no right to be in business; if unions don’t stop thinking the Chinese have no right to manufacture aircraft and parts; if airlines don’t stop discounting the need for corporate aviation; and if heavy iron drivers don’t stop thinking that a bush pilot’s Otter has as much right to the runway, then where are we going to be as an industry in 20 years?

Like it or not we are a global economy. More than a billion people in China alone are beginning to yearn for things we Americans have taken for granted. All over the world, even in the most remote places, aviation has taken hold and is shrinking the world. There is precious little difference between an aircraft mechanic in Chicago and one in Shanghai or between a bizjet pilot in Teterboro and one in Nairobi.

Aviation is more than an occupation; it’s a great, extended family. Instead of being dysfunctional, we must learn to respect the rights of others to work in our industry, be paid fairly and help meet the needs of all the citizens of the world. To stay intact and viable, it is vital that we stop trying to diminish or exclude anyone and ask what we can do to make it work for us all.

Yes, change can be painful and some people can be severely affected. We must find ways to help people who have been negatively impacted by change, because we must shed the “us versus them” mentality, recognize our industry is a global family, do the right thing and get on with it. It may be the toughest thing one ever has to do, but that’s what families do.


I totally agree with you. I have not been in aviation long enough, but the longer I stay, the more I feel every single person is connected. It is such a small world compacted with people's passion, teamwork, and trust. I believe they are the beauty of aviation. I am so sorry to hear about your lovely dog. I am also such an animal lover, and understand this is something we will never get used to no matter how many times it happens. I bet Megan was the happiest dog in a world that day. Hope you feel better soon.


I appreciate your thoughts.

I wrote a Facebook entry saying I was going to have to put her down then afterwards wrote this blog. I have been amazed at the volume of comments I've received from people both public and private. As you know, when this happens you feel like an island alone is a vast sea but it turns out a lot of people feel the same way and hearing from them helps get you through.

Thanks again, Kay.

David Lombardo

Good article, Dave. Start with aviation and expand. Our society needs to go back to the Golden Rule, love your neighbor as yourself, and consider everyone your neighbor. The world would then be a better place.

Dave this was close to my heart. We too have recently put down a beloved Yorkie - one of several, including two Labs, over the years. Each time it happens I think of what Will Rogers said: "When I die I want to go where my dog went." And we in aviation are indeed a family. But, as in all families, we have to watch for the bad seed among us. As for the FAA they have a difficult dual role to encourage aviation and regulate (police) it too- watch for the bad seed. Regarding mechanics pay I agree there 100%. In fact I've always felt they should have a type rating on aircraft they specialize in. But decent pay is a given.


I couldn't agree with you more on all accounts...especially when it comes to family pets. My wife had to lay our black lab, Bullitt, down as I was out of town. What a devastating event in our lives and I will regret not being there for my wife and my dog for the rest of my life.

As an executive in the aerospace industry and having dealt with ACOs for most of my career, I can certainly empathize with the difficulties around certification support and guidance from our friends in the FAA and EASA. It is a difficult balance they must strike, and I am beginning to see industry and the regulatory agencies work more harmoniously when it comes to certification...particularly through the administration of delegated authority.

Thanks for your thoughtful writings.

I understand your pain completely! I watched, as my last lab ran in front of a car and I have been there to put down others. I believe putting them down was worse as you build up to it and then still have to grieve afterward.
How do we change are society my friend? We have started down a wrong path and turning around almost seems as the path behind us has been covered by overgrowth. All we can do is try!
Thanks for the sharing as usual.


Thank you for sharing your experience

Dog and mankind are very close to each other and you can always depend on your dog to be your "best" friend.

Over the past 20 years we have had many Border Collies and last year as I was backing my farm truck & trailer - 15 year old Sam walked behind and got run over!

He died within minutes and I laid down beside him.

I begged him to forgive what I had done, he raised a paw onto my arm and died.

It took a long time for my tears to stop - long live Sammy.

I would like to thank the many people who sent me emails and responded here to my thoughts. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of emails I received; it was unexpected but greatly appreciated.

We share a very unique industry in that so many of us get into aviation because we love it.

Having toured countless MROs, OEMs and flight departments over the years has been very revealing. When you look in cubicles, pass by tool chests and sit in some CEO's office you're struck by the fact that everyone has model airplanes, aviation gadgets, posters, etc.

You don't see that when you walk through a plastics manufacturing plant, a car repair shop or pretty much any other industry. The people of aviation are family bound together by a common love.

I have dear friends in Japan, Hong Kong, England and elsewhere in the world. The one thing we all have in common is this love of aviation. Let's embrace one another as family, sort out our differences, pull together and make it work.


I enjoyed reading your article. You bring so many aspects into the intricate framework of aviation and family. I wish more people felt the same as you, maybe, this world would be a better place. Vidal was correct in saying, "It's not enough to be successful, others must fail." I agree with you that we as a society have lost our sense of family and togetherness. My hope as a small member in this huge world is to never give up faith that there are still decent and loving people out there. Great, article, David!!!!!

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