With the pandemic sweeping our nation and our world, we wanted to turn our attention to the thing that brings us all here to begin with, our community and our airplanes.
You’ll notice that very little of our issue covers the effects of the coronavirus on aviation, though that remains overwhelmingly the biggest story in the world and in our little aviation niche, too.
When we announced last month that we would be putting together special features dedicated in part to the strength of the people like you and me who fly small planes, the response was enormous. The idea, which resonated strongly with our readers, was not so much to document the effects of the novel coronavirus but to highlight the resilience of the people who fly small planes in the face of that virus. So we wanted to share with you the faces, the stories and the strength (and, okay, the planes) of our readers. We think that you will find them as moving and inspirational as we have. (SCROLL DOWN TO MEET OUR READERS AND READ THEIR STORIES)
Gil Brown has been a pilot for over four decades. A retired teacher, he incorporated aeronautics lessons into his curriculum and continues to enjoy flying today in his beloved Bonanza.
His Plane: 1979 Beechcraft Bonanza F33A, owned with wife Carol
Ratings: Private Pilot with a tailwheel endorsement
Favorite Plane: “Nothing can beat my Bonanza, but I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the amazing Boeing 747.”
Home Airport: KREI (Redlands Municipal Airport)
Favorite Destination: The Waypoint Café in Camarillo (excellent food and service!)
His Story: Forty-four years—that’s how long pilot Gil Brown’s been flying. “I earned my private pilot’s license in 1976 in Redlands, California, with a wonderful flight instructor and friend, Earl Grigsby. I flew rental aircraft until 1994, when I purchased and began the restoration of a 1966 Cherokee Six. Together with our four sons, my wife, Carol, and I had memorable adventures in that airplane.” He even took his love for flying into his career: “As a classroom teacher in the Redlands Unified School District for 35 years, I incorporated aeronautics into my science curriculum. My fifth- and sixth-grade students learned complex principles of physics that are applicable to aircraft design and instrumentation. The unit culminated with students receiving a flight in my airplane. I am now retired from teaching but work four hours a day as co-owner and manager of Coyote Aviation in Redlands.”
Flying In Pandemic Times: The current crisis has curtailed the pilot’s flying fun. “Now, most flights are to maintain proficiency. With airport restaurants closed, our Coyote Aviation Breakfast Club has nowhere to go, and pilots are avoiding meeting together. Certainly, the virus has given me much more solitary time to maintain my hangar and lavish my Bonanza with TLC. Still, it remains a joy simply to be at the airport.” He remains hopeful, however. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an enormous strain on the lifestyles of most who live in the United States, I am absolutely certain we will weather the storm. In the future, retrospection will reveal this as a time in which the character of the American citizenry was defined.”