One Step Forward
Having just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Oshkosh for EAAs AirVenture extravaganza, Im struck by two seemingly contradictory observations: First, the planes and products seem to get better each year. Second, the pilots dont.
Regarding the first observation, who can argue that products like the mostly certified Eclipse 500, to-be-produced HondaJet, Cessna LSA and NGP (next-generation piston, a.k.a Cirrus-killer), Garmins GPSMAP 496 and the various G1000 offspring, among other new toys, arent about the coolest things on the planet since canned beer? Meanwhile, the maturing light sport aircraft category is beginning to realize its promise of getting more people out of their boats and RVs, off their Harleys and into the air.
Thanks to the airlines continuing decline in service and customer satisfaction, demand for general aviation is growing. At the same time, new technology, materials and manufacturing processes are being used to create flying machines and devices we could only dream about a few years ago.
While obstacles like user fees, bureaucracy and stupid security rules still loom on the horizon, the industrys future seems to be a bright one. And it would be, except for that pesky second observation.
Even though the aircraft and the equipment used to fly them are constantly improving, the pilots arent. Sadly, there were three fatalities in two separate accidents at Wittman Regional Airport this year, plus a few more involving en route operations. How and why those accidents happened is still under investigation. But even more troubling, there are still pilots out there who either dont know or dont care to obtain a copy of the Oshkosh Notam and use it.
Cmon guys (and Im not aware of this applying to a single female pilot), this isnt rocket science. During the week-long show, some 10,000 airplanes came and went from Oshkosh and surrounding fields. Most of them were flown by pilots who shouldered the responsibility to obtain, read and understand the arrival/departure procedures. But a few out there still seem to think they can wing it.
And they probably can when bouncing around their home drome, dodging cowpies on the back 40. But when trying to get into Oshkoshs North 40, its time to be on your game. Some still dont get it.
Industry can develop all kinds of nice, new and neat toys for us to fly and use, but until the pilots reliability catches up to the technologys, the average guy or gal on the street-the untapped market for these products and the ideas for using them-will still look upon general aviation as some kind of amateurish activity only engaged in by dolts with too much money, too much time and too little common sense for their own good.
And theyd be right.