Plane & Pilot
Friday, July 1, 2005


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

Still, there are the fences—a not-so-subtle form of us-versus-them discrimination. I know the fences have to be there; we can’t have civilians wandering on the ramp any more than we can have horses trying to get at the grass on highway medians, but damn if I don’t hate those fences.

When I was watching the horses, the very thought of them roaming free in the world made me feel a little freer myself. Then, when I was told they were at least partially fenced in, some of that feeling went away. Civilization had hemmed them in just as it has the rest of us.

As I’m driving out and glancing over at the smiling faces on the other side of the chain-link fence, I sometimes wonder if civilization is really all it’s cracked up to be. I wonder if we aren’t our own worst enemy. For instance, we want aviation to grow, but we throw barriers of unimaginable proportions around everything we do, and the fences are just the visual reminder of the rest. Regulations, cost, inaccessibility, etc., keep the rest of the population out of our world just as surely as fences do. Is that what we want? Do we want a private club where only members can get through the gate? I think we need to seriously rethink the fence concept in aviation. We’re keeping others out, while at the same time, making ourselves the closely guarded inmates in a three-dimensional zoo that others love to watch.

There still are lots of places where horses run free. And there is uncluttered sky that, to those of us with wings, is free range. I also know that there are airports and radio-control airfields out there without fences. If, for some unfathomable reason, I’m not here next month, look for me “out there.” I’ll be the one with the silly grin and the fence cutters in my back pocket.

Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & A, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his Website at


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