When I learned to fly, longer ago than I care to talk about, the only way was to go to the local airport, hang on the fence and wait for someone to offer you an airplane ride. Once you were hooked, it was back to the airport and into the line shack to see what you had to do to get flying lessons. Your instructor would be some grizzled old timer who had a lot of flying time and a jaundiced view of the world, but a kindly demeanor towards any youngster who wanted to learn to fly. But, for anyone else, they just didn't have the time of day!
The radio hand a crank handle to change frequencies, and there weren't that many people to talk to anyway. No control tower, no FAA spies doing ramp checks, no one around except those who loved aviation. Weather bad? No matter, flip up the hangar door, drag out a lawn chair, watch the rain fall and visit with other pilots. So where have all the student pilots gone today? The grass strips are still there, but rather barren and desolate. The small FBOs are disappearing as fast as our World War II veterans, with no end in sight. Hangars are empty now, and there is a sadness at the local airport. I am left to wonder if they will ever come back. Today's young pilots are coming out of a much different training regime than I did. They are attending a major university, and taking their training in highly disciplined courses run by professional educators. One example is the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota. I had an opportunity to talk to Dana Siewert, Director of Aviation Safety at the University recently, and you can find that interview at "Hangar Talk" on this website. During that conversation we discussed today's training environment, and how the University keeps its students safe. In addition to weaving the culture of safety throughout their programs, they evaluate the equipment and aircraft as well. Two of the more interesting things they are interested in are the Appareo Systems ALRERTS Vision 100, essentially a "Black Box" for general aviation. Black boxes (which are really orange in color) have been used by commercial aviation for years, and now with these new devices can help us improve safety in general aviation aircraft by providing accident data to investigators. You can learn more about the Appareo Systems Vision products at "Discover the Vision 1000." The other is the AmSafe Airbag Seatbelt system to protect occupants of the aircraft in the event of an incident or accident. Much like car seatbelts, but better, these devices have already proven their ability to save lives. Unlike car airbags, these airbags deploy outward from the occupant, providing an extra level of safety for pilots and passengers alike. You can learn more about them at AmSafe's "Important Facts About the AmSafe Airbag." Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!