Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Aviation In The Key Of Gee Whiz


Getting a buzz out of life is easy


The other day, we were discussing magazines, writing, flying and other major food groups of life, and I referred to the kind of wordsmithing I've always done as "Gee-Whiz Journalism." From the quizzical looks generated, it was obvious that the phrase was apparently made up, and it made no sense to anyone but me. That seems to happen a lot.

To me, the term "Gee-Whiz Journalism" means the same as "Gee-Whiz Aviation, Gee-Whiz Autos" and gee-whiz other stuff. These are identified as such because they possess some sort of energy factor that occasionally squeezes the old adrenal glands, causing a, "Gee whiz!" or something considerably less PC to pop out involuntarily. They're objects, activities and concepts that are laced with an above-average amount of excitement and, for that reason alone, a lot of us are attracted to them. Other folks, probably those with more common sense, don't give those kinds of pursuits a second thought, something I had never really considered.

For decades, I had assumed that pilots, regardless of what they were flying, were all enamored of unique, high-performance machines. I figured that the appearance of these birds, which often reek of gee-whiz class, would automatically suck people to them. Then, I unwittingly taxied into a local Bonanza fly-in, where I looked like a Martian arriving at a PTA meeting, because I was flying Aviat's rendition of the super-classic clipped-wing Monocoupe Special.

This is an airplane that has so much pure gee-whiz oozing out of its pores that it looks positively evil. With its pugilistic, chin-up stance, tiny tailwheel and even tinier windshield, it appears to be challenging the world, "Come, on, I dare you! Just try to fly me!"

Who can't see themselves as a 1930s, Smilin' Jack character when flying something like that? That's why I was crestfallen, heartbroken and almost insulted that when a meeting broke up, a couple hundred Bonanza owners drifted past the zaney-looking little bird, and not one person even turned their head to look at it. Not a single one!

Apparently, not all of those who fly are in it for the gee-whiz factor. Some of them fly because they enjoy the utilitarian aspects of airplanes: They actually use them to go places! What a concept. They didn't look at my borrowed bird because it looked more like it was going to pick a fight than take them somewhere. Huh! Who'd a thunk?



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