That's really me with the May 1962 issue of Flying Magazine - circa 1963 at age 2
The news yesterday afternoon that the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Board of Directors had accepted President and CEO Rod Hightower's resignation came as a complete surprise. Interestingly, reading other avgeek facebook posts about the resignation and the comments left on the EAA's website post of the news, many people see this as a good and important step in the right direction for the organization. I would agree, to an extent. My biggest concern is that this continued sign of instability within the EAA (which in the short term seems to have been around for the last three years or so, and in the long term has been around about 25 years) might eventually lead to a real collapse of the organization. While I believe the EAA has many faults, I'm convinced that the good far outweighs the bad. I fear that if it ceases to be the voice for experimental and sport aviation, something far more misguided will likely arise to fill the void. The EAA needs to get a grip, a really good grip, asap.
So with that in mind, I'm here to offer up 3 reasons why I should be the new EAA President, and 3 more explaining why that'll never happen. What follows is a mix of truth, a little humor, and some brutal honesty. Oh, and for reference sake, my EAA number is 57138 (joined in 1970 at age 9, and my dad, who passed away in 2009 was #1146)
Reason #1: My serious interest in aviation began about age 2
As the picture above shows, my interest in aviation began very early! Ok, I wasn't a very good reader at age 2 but I really did love looking at the pictures. While it's true that my aviation knowledge was pretty thin at age 2, by the time I was 6 or 7 years old I had an amazing amount of actual aviation knowledge. Between ages two and seven, I had been riding around in the family Aeronca Champ, had been riding with my dad in sailplanes, had been hanging out at airports where he was skydiving, and had been checking out the racers at the fairly new and very exciting Reno Air Races. Aviation was my life... it's about the only thing I knew. If it was cool and had to do with airplanes, I was probably either doing it, hanging out with those who were, or I was reading about it. (see my previous post on this picture of me)
My passion for homebuilt airplanes and sport aviation is very real, and about as deeply rooted as it can get. It's also more diverse than most people's... I was raised with the idea that pretty much anything that flies (and especially if it allows YOU to fly) is something to be passionate about. I guess my tag line here on AirPigz: Hog Wild About Anything That Flies! might make even more sense to you now! So... I present my life long exposure and passion for aviation to you as reason #1 why I should be the new EAA President.
Me at age 11 safely propping our 90hp Breezy homebuilt airplane (Elgin, IL 1972)
Reason #2: I starting propping a homebuilt airplane at age 11
Can you imagine anyone else on the short list for the new EAA President who also starting propping an airplane at just 11 years of age? And it wasn't just any airplane, it was a homebuilt at that! I'm not kidding here... the pictures above prove it. My dad bought the second Breezy ever built (first one built from the plans) around 1972. We lived in West Dundee, Illinois at the time, but the airplane had been built in California in the 60's. It had a 90hp Continental and was actually pretty easy to prop, but still, safely propping an airplane at 11 is pretty impressive! (see my previous post on me propping the Breezy)
This Breezy didn't have an electrical system so you had to prop it if you wanted to go flying. My dad didn't see any reason why I shouldn't learn this basic piloting skill at a young age. I sure miss the days when knowing how to prop an airplane was considered a basic piloting skill! Looking back tho, I still have a hard time believing that I did it!
So, reason number 2 for why I should be the new EAA President is my homebuilt aircraft propping history... actually, maybe it's the fact that in the pic above I'm wearing an official EAA blue windbreaker (with the old original logo) that shows even more my unique EAA qualifications : )
Reason #3: My skillset is quite diverse
So... I have a genuine passion for aviation, with a wide a range of knowledge about experimental aircraft and sport aviation (and as my postings on AirPigz show, my aviation knowledge goes far deeper than that) - and I knew how to prop an airplane at a very early age. But I also have a pretty diverse skillset to bring to the job. Let's start with that logo on the left side of the pic below. It's based on the old original EAA logo, but it's actually modernized a fair amount. It brings up two specific points. 1; I'm very passionate that the old original logo is vastly superior to the swooshy jet one adopted in the 1990's, and 2; I have the creativity and skills to generate an updated version of the old original logo. How many people on the short list can do that?
My updated yet retro EAA logo goes up against the big-city logo currently used
When I first drew that retro logo back in May of 2010, I put up a poll to see which logo people liked better. I got 309 votes in that poll, and right at 70% preferred the retro logo over the one currently used. Now that may not accurately reflect the results if all EAA members voted, but it sure says something... it speaks pretty loudly to the fact that there are a lot of old-schoolers like me who have been frustrated over the last 15 to 20 years with the direction that the EAA has taken. Moving away from the grass-roots and trying hard to be as big and profitable as possible. But, big and profitable isn't necessarily in the interest of the members of this member organization! Btw, be sure to vote in the new poll above that puts the two logos head to head in an all new battle.
I'll also add here that for 10 years I ran a non-profit Christian rock music festival that really taught me how to get things done. With no staff (and while working a full-time job) I handled the planning, paperwork, logistics, the majority of the fundraising, handled all promotions, oversaw design and construction of the stages and then ran the multi-day event. The last year for the event (2008) had 45 bands on 3 stages over 3 days. It was a pretty big deal! Of course it couldn't have been successful without the help of volunteers during the setup and running of the event. In many ways, it was like my own little Oshkosh-type experience. I learned to how to deal with deadlines... how to make big things happen with little cash... and how to remain a kind and encouraging leader in the face of constant problems and stress.
I think my diverse skillset is reason #3 why I should be the new EAA president.
WHY IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN
My 3 reasons above explaining why I should be the new EAA President are actually quite valid (well, maybe not the propping at age 11 one) but I'm thinking I could probably handle the job. Tho it would most likely be in a somewhat unconventional manner. However, there are several reasons why it's just not very likely that I'll get the job.
Reason #1: I'd undo the new logo and that A********e word
The first thing I would do as the new EAA President would be to adopt some form of the original logo. And then the second thing... you know that really big event that takes place in the summer in Wisconsin? It would never again be known a A********e, it would proudly have just one name: Oshkosh. In my mind, these two moves are essential for bringing back the most important part of the organization: the heart and soul. Don't ask me to graph out how a logo and an event name directly correlate to the heart and soul. I can't draw it out for you, but I absolutely believe it's true. And I have talked to boatloads of others who agree with me. It actually has less to do with the specific icon and the event name, and much more to do with the motivations that were behind the changes years ago. I believe those motivations were misguided. (btw, I am so against the word that was developed to replace 'Oshkosh' that I don't say it and don't even write it out!)
However, being the kind of guy who would make such bold and sweeping changes right from the start most likely makes me a freak in the eyes of the higher-uppers. I'm quite comfortable being seen as a freak, but I doubt they'd have the courage to give me the opportunity to make such radical changes.
Reason #2: Sport Aviation magazine would be overhauled once again
When EAA's Sport Aviation magazine got overhauled a few years back, I was actually very disappointed. And then, the changes made even more recently have only made things even worse. It's not that it's a bad magazine... it's actually a very good one. But it's not the magazine that best represents or serves the members. I was raised on the old Sport Aviation. I honestly learned more about homebuilt aircraft from age 11 on from those magazines than I did anywhere else. One thing that I specifically liked about the publication was that everything about it was different than 'mainstream' aviation publications. The content, the look, and the purpose, it was all different. That uniqueness matched the uniqueness of the typical EAA member. People who build airplanes (or want to) aren't like everyone else, and I feel a magazine that echoes that is both what Sport Aviation used to be, and what it needs to be again.
I don't have the time or energy to quantify this better for you now, but I'm pretty sure there are many people nodding their head in agreement... we miss what Sport Aviation used to be. But again, my desire to stir the pot on an issue like this would keep me from being seriously considered for the job.
Reason #3: I'm more likely to look to our past to find the future
I've been concerned for the future of aviation like many of us have for years now, but my vision for making aviation strong for the future is pretty radical... it has more to do with taking a giant step backward than some wild leap into the future. We need cheap and passion-inspiring aircraft to draw more people into flying. I believe tapping into the training aircraft of the 1940's is our best option. I've been pushing the Pipe Cub specifically, but any of the 2-seat taildraggers that taught a generation to fly would work. Completely overhauled, fully certified aircraft can be put to work for a 1/4 to 1/2 of the cost of a 'modern' LSA. And these airframes have proven that they can be affordably rebuilt indefinitely. Most important, I believe they inspire more passion for the true beauty of flight, and because they are taildraggers, they make better pilots from day one. Check out my recent post and poll that deals with this issue: Poll: Which LSA Can Best Save General Aviation? (RV-12 SLSA, CH750 SLSA, Piper Cub)
I believe this is our best option given the state of the world and America these days, but this view is most likely considered both radical and outdated by the power people. I think it's another example of why I just couldn't be considered for the position of EAA President... my thinking is just too far from what is considered normal these days.
All I can say to that is: look where all this 'normal' thinking has brought us.