ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE. Times may be tough, but down doesn’t mean out. For example, Budd Davisson still flies his Pitts S2A regularly and is able to share his love of aviation with others.
I’ve been pacing around this semi-dark room, struggling for the words I want to put on this electronic page. This is the first time this has happened in decades. Usually, I just sit down and the words flow. During the week, something happens where part of my mind says, “Yeah, they’d like hearing about that.” But tonight, I’m struggling, and I only just now figured out why: I’m entirely too fixated on the “what ifs” of the new economic era we’re stumbling into. I’m not sure which is worse, the situation or the fact that I’m fixated on it.
I tend to see too much of life in an aviation framework. At least that’s what I tell my kids; they’re constantly grumbling about how I’m a born-again pessimist. I point out that every single time the throttle goes forward, I assume the engine’s going to quit—that’s not pessimism, that’s common sense. I’m putting myself in a mind-set that no matter what happens, I’m ready for it. When I start applying the same thought patterns to the worldwide situation at hand, however, I come off looking like a survivalist, or something close to it. Which, I suppose to a certain degree, I am. And frankly, I don’t like it. Looking around, I’m not sure, but I think the reason I see things this way is because of the “glass half empty” attitude dominating the news. If I didn’t watch the news and just evaluated life by what I see around me, I don’t think I’d be quite so nuts.
Yes, the first two months of the year were really slow in my little flight school—much slower than normal. But then March came along and was, by a fair margin, the busiest month I had ever experienced (pushing 70 hours), so the first quarter was at least as good as it was last year, which was a pretty good year. I did so much flying in March that I began to have dreams about keeping it on the centerline. I’d wake up in the middle of the night trying to calculate how many flying hours remained until the next oil change, because I was doing them every 10 days or so. It was nuts! But a good kind of nuts. I’d be lying if I said the job losses don’t bother me. Both of my stepsons are out of work. A good friend is out of work. The situation definitely isn’t good. But even if unemployment rips past 10%, we have to flip that statistic over and look at it from another angle: It’s another way of saying that 90% of people are still working. And a bunch are still flying, too.
I’m paying rent on a second hangar at an airfield not far from me. When I move into it, this hangar will cost me about a third of the one I’m in now. That’s a big savings, but I haven’t moved yet, and it’s been nearly six months. Why haven’t I moved? Because my airport is so incredibly busy that most of the time, I can’t get off the ground in anything less than 15 minutes. I’ve had as many as 16 flight school airplanes lined up on the taxiway ahead of me. So, I probably won’t move unless the financial sky falls and forces me to. People definitely are still flying. Granted, traffic is slowed all around, major airframe manufacturers are in trouble and it’s looking pretty grim, but down doesn’t mean out.
People are still flying, and business still needs doin’. Additionally, as I was typing the foregoing paragraph, I got a message from one of my e-groups to look at a new listing on Barnstormers. The listing was a grim one: “Wanted: Small airplane project to keep myself busy as my cancer is terminal and this will be good therapy.” The ad grabbed me by the throat and told me exactly how good we all have it. Then I noticed the name: It was a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time, and he’s dying. I not only didn’t know that he was sick, but I also didn’t have a project to send him. If I did, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
So, do I have it rough? No, I never said that, and I’ve certainly never thought that. Is the country in trouble? Absolutely. Is it being taken in a direction of which I approve? That’s irrelevant. It’s going where it’s going and if I don’t like it, I can get active politically and do something about it. If I do like it, I can stand on the sidelines and approve. But my world hasn’t come to an end; I can still go out to the airport and fly when I feel like it. More importantly, I’m still getting e-mails and phone calls from those who want to join me. My glass isn’t half empty no matter how you look at it.
I think we as a nation have had the “glass half empty” philosophy rammed down our throats by too many gloom-mongers. As a nation, we were sired by generations that not only had nothing in the glass, but also didn’t have a glass to begin with. We built a nation from nothing, just as my friend will create an airplane from nothing. And just like a builder knows that he can rebuild any airplane he built in the first place, we should know that we can do the same for our nation and our economy. We built it, so we can rebuild it. We just have to stop standing on the doorstep wringing our hands as the world races past. Instead, let’s start doing something that makes a difference.
We’re going to come out of this thing okay, but only if we put our heads down and make it happen. And don’t forget to call/fax/e-mail your congressperson. It can make a difference.
Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & CFIA, 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 www.airbum.com.