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Grassroots

Browse Grassroots, a collection of flying-related articles by Budd Davisson. An accomplished aviation journalist, Budd shares his perspective on  all kinds of flight-related subjects.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fuel’s Gold


Sometimes cutting an expense costs more in the long run



fuel's goldAre we now seeing apocalyptic signs that the world, as we know it, is about to collapse in on us? I checked my avgas price this morning (yeah, I know, dumb move) and it was $6.72, which means, at present rates, by the time you read this, it’ll be over seven bucks.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Bucket List


Start early on your list, it makes for a wonderful life



grassrootsThe other day, a student called to book some flight training, explaining that flying a Pitts has been on his bucket list. I haven’t seen the movie by the same name, but I love the concept: You make up a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket, and little by little, you whittle it down. Naturally, when I heard that, I thought about what I’d put on my own such list. After a few minutes of thinking, however, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that I couldn’t come up with many items.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bad Landings, Egos & Me


Experience is a great teacher, but only if you listen to it



grassrootsI knew it was windy, but it wasn’t that bad. I mean 15 gusting to 25 isn’t even close to the top of the sphincter-tension scale in my little airplane. In fact, it’s so good in a crosswind that to a certain extent, those of us who fly the type tend to ignore crosswinds. Or at least pooh-pooh anything under 20 to 25 knots. My record, which I mention constantly, is 38 gusting to 50, 60 through 90 degrees to the runway. And therein lies the difference. At 90 degrees, I’m flying one airplane. At 120 degrees, as it was Sunday, it’s something quite different, and I knew it. Still, I didn’t have a doubt in my little airplane. We could handle it.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sun ’n Fun 2008!


And so begins the air show season



grassrootsAs this column is being written, I’m sitting in an open-sided tent at Sun ’n Fun. The annual event is held in Lakeland, Fla., which is about 50 miles west of “Mickeyville.” It’s raining, it’s colder than an auditor’s heart, I got soaked looking for a sweatshirt, so I’m wearing a garbage bag in a vain attempt at limiting heat loss—I look like I’m homeless. Plus, I’m shivering so much that typing is becoming a chore, so excuse any typos. The ’08 air show season is off to a typical start.
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Super Bowl Super Fly-In


It’s Oshkosh, but with Gulfstreams, caviar, limos…and lots of beer



grassrootsIt was Super Bowl morning, and the airport was as dead as a Thanksgiving turkey. Where barely 12 hours earlier, the only way I could get into the air was by sitting at an intersection, engine running and whining to the tower, this day I practically owned the airport. The pattern, anyway. The airport itself was owned by the more than 208 jets and turboprops that had come into Scottsdale, Ariz., that morning and stayed—not to mention the dozens more that came, dropped off passengers, and then split. It had to be coincidental that across town, in the gleaming dome easily visible from the pattern, even though it was more than 20 miles away, the Giants and the Patriots were about to square off.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Four Aviation Food Groups


Man does not live by cross-country alone



grassrootsBalanced aviation nutrition is like nutrition of all types in that it has to support and nurture the body, the soul and the mind, but not necessarily in that order. Without it, the entity that is the aviator will, if not wither and die, at least not realize his full potential. The aviator’s growth, thinking and spirit will be stunted, and he or she will probably not even realize it. To maintain an aviator’s body and mind in peak condition, it’s essential that it be fed the proper balance of nutrition from each of the four basic av-food groups.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Passion Breeds Success


If you love something, you can’t help but win



grassrootsYesterday, as we were taxiing back for yet another dash down the runway to defy gravity, I started laughing out loud. My student asked what I was laughing about and I said, “The thought just crossed my mind that, at this exact moment, my daughter is on set in Toronto producing her first movie, my son is negotiating with several agencies that are competing fiercely for his scripts, Marlene is making a name as a ceramicist and I’m sitting in my favorite airplane doing what I love to do. Life is good for the Davisson tribe, and I can’t keep from laughing.”
Friday, February 1, 2008

Breaking In A New One


New engines, like new friends, take a little while to get to know



grassrootsAs I’m writing this, a shuttle bus is taking me a hundred miles north to meet a new friend (I hope): the freshly overhauled Lyc IO-360-A1A that’s snuggled under the cowling of Eight Papa Bravo and is waiting for me to pick her up and bring her home. It has been a long time since I’ve done the new engine thing. I feel as if I’m going on a first date after just getting divorced. I’m not really cheating on the old one, am I?
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Obituary For My Friend


You don’t know true sorrow until you lose a dog



It was early on the first day of the EAA Northwest Regional Fly-In at Arlington, Wash., and Marlene called me at the exhibit. She sounded strange, so I walked away from the booth for some privacy and stood in the middle of a wide and grassy fire lane with lines of exhibit booths on both sides. Then a voice I knew said words that I understood, but that my brain refused to comprehend: “Budd, Nizhoni died about an hour ago.”
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Avgas Alternatives


Is there a solution to skyrocketing fuel prices?



I did something incredibly stupid the other day. My fuel is on an open account, and the price is always buried in a seldom-seen monthly statement. So, I asked the price. The nice young lady said (with a perfectly straight face) that because I’m a tenant, I get a discount. I’m only paying $3.88.
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Remembering Curtis Pitts


Some losses are extremely hard to accept



I had just parked in front of my insurance agent’s office and was cursing myself for forgetting to bring the premium check when it hit me. It was as if someone way down at the end of a long, gloomy tunnel had whispered, “Curtis just died.” I looked down and saw goose bumps on my arms.
Monday, August 1, 2005

The Derelicts


Are airplanes ever so far gone that they’re truly dead?



I’ve mentioned them before—those long-dead, thoroughly baked carcasses I taxi past each day that at some time in the past, were airplanes. Now they’re aeronautically shaped mounds of dust and bird droppings that occupy the last tie-down spots on the ramp. It’s as if they’re purposely quarantined away from “real” airplanes, those that fly, so as to not pass on the lethal disease they may carry. Out here, we refer to those kinds of airplanes as roaches. Don’t ask why. It just seems to fit.
Friday, July 1, 2005

Fences


Whether real or imaginary, these obstacles keep us in and others out



Yesterday evening, a friend and I were flying across the desert a few miles south of Phoenix, when my fellow pilot asked, “Hey, wanna look at the horses?”

A wing dropped, and I found myself looking down at 30 horses that ignored us as we spiraled down around them. They were in a loose bunch in the sagebrush. Some were grazing, others were lying down, while a couple chased each other around in what appeared to be an equine game of tag. Every color and pattern was represented and spring had obviously arrived, as a number of colts frolicked about.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Time Flies


Tomorrow has a way of becoming yesterday entirely too quickly



As I’m typing this, my little red airplane is in the hos-pital for a 100-hour inspec-tion that is going to cost nearly 1⁄5 of what the air-plane is valued new. Every time the phone rings, it’s another one of those $1,000 calls. Yesterday, I was in a funk when I figured out that I would have to fly it another 100 hours just to pay for that inspection and then it would be time for yet another inspection.
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Young Geniuses


When do you get too old to be a prodigy?



The other night, at the urging of a friend, Marlene and I did something we rarely do: We went to see a band play at a local watering hole (I would have said “dive,” but didn’t feel it necessary to be that accurate). The actual reason we went was because we kept hearing about Nick Sterling, this unbelievable local guitar player that everyone, from MTV to Gibson Guitar, was falling all over. We weren’t disappointed. He was an experience not to be missed, and this was just weeks after his 14th birthday.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Smarter Than A Tow Bar?


It hurts when even the simplest things make you feel stupid



What’s the tennis ball for?” asked one of my students. Almost every one of them ask the same old question. I answered, “That’s one of the IQ tests that came with my hangar. You can’t be issued a passing grade around here until you figure it out.”
Saturday, January 1, 2005

Fear Of Flying


Conquering it may just be a matter of control



Am I the only person in the aviation world who has ever gone through, and still goes through, periods of apprehension when it comes to flying? I can even go so far as to say that I’m maybe even a little afraid. In my case, I don’t mean ready-to-soil-myself scared. I mean, I’ll be chugging along at about 4,000 feet, and for the briefest of moments and for absolutely no reason, a little twinge of fear sneaks a quick jab to my confidence. Then, it’s gone.
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

No Offense


Keeping quiet may be the safest tactic, but it’s not always the best



Exactly what part of the brain controls our egos, anyway? Since I’m not a shrink and simply apply what I’ve seen over a lifetime, I’d have to say that the part that controls our aviation ego is also tasked with the management of our sexual ego. This has to be the case and the reason for our egos because you get exactly the same reaction when you insult, degrade or, in any way, question a guy’s ability in either of those areas.
Monday, November 1, 2004

Recovering From The EAA AirVenture


The countdown to next year’s show begins the minute you return home



We had just returned from Oshkosh, Wis., late last night, which is another way of saying that today, I’m going to be nearly useless. There are lots of things to be done, but I don’t have enough energy in order to cope, so screw ’em. That stuff will get done tomorrow.
Friday, October 1, 2004

Serendipitous Encounters


Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time is a spiritual experience



We were in the pattern and just in the process of turning downwind from crosswind when the tower said, “Eight-papa-bravo, you’re number two to a Liberator that will be crossing over the airport to join downwind in front of you. He’ll be doing a low pass.”