When Aviation Meets the Winter Olympics

10:35 PM

The last few nights, I have been thankful I operate my world from a Macbook Pro laptop so I can plant myself on the couch, watch NBC's coverage of the Winter Games, and still do a little swing shift work.

But me, well, being ME, I always seem to think in terms of how whatever I am doing relates to the glorious aviation world in which I live. Sometimes I think this is quite normal behavior – doesn't everyone pay $100 for a burger? – but just when I assume I'm getting close to thinking like a normal non-aviator, this happens:
Last Saturday night, we enjoyed the Eugene Ballet's unbelievable contemporary ballet Dark Side of the Moon, with a couple of new friends, one of which is currently a student pilot. In one of choreographer Toni Pimble's great pieces on the bill called Common Ground, a dance begins with a thick layer of white stage fog enveloping the entire stage. As the music picks up volume and tempo, you first see an arm appear up through the soup, and then a head. Another arm, another head, and soon, body parts are popping up everywhere. At intermission, I asked my student pilot friend if we were the only two patrons in the audience who thought we were watching "IFR dancing" tonight. He looked at me and said, "man, Dan, you've got it bad!"
Yes, I suppose I do. But being addicted to aviation is way better than anything I've been addicted to in my "colorful" past. Enjoying a love affair with flying machines won't get me divorced, or, like one particular uber-famous golfer, getting a little "stick time" on the side won't cause me to end up before the media making weak, fabricated apologies.

So as I sit here tonight watching the Olympics, I find myself wondering just what would happen if a bunch of pilots were to take over the games. Here's a few "improvements" we might see:
Wing Suit Ski Jumping: I'm mean no disrespect to the ski jumping community, but your sport is boring on TV. With minor exceptions, it appears that each dude lands in damned near the same spot...yawn. So why not let these guys wear Wing Suits and launch them of the top of the highest Peak on skis? Their jumps would them be measured not in meters, but in miles.

Red Bull Slalom: You take those rocket Red Bull race planes and strap on skis as if they were Piper Super Cubs headed out to the North Slope to slay moose. Set those giant Red Bull inflatable turn markers right in downtown Whistler and make these guys blast around the pylons at about 2' AGL.

Four-man Bobsleigh, Duluth Style: You watch the bobsleigh (didn't these used to be called bob SLEDS?) and ask yourself how much drag that ice must be causing. So why not let Cirrus Design build the sleigh/sleds using full composites and an efficient new design. I say we put wings on the sides of these big boy Flexi Flyers so they get just enough lift to let them fly maybe six inches off the ice. Fast? You betcha.

Seaplane Biathalon: Which drunken Eskimo came up with the idea of combining skiing and rifle shooting? So we get rid of the whole idea of skis – already plenty of other snow sports at the games – and put the athletes in DeHavilland DHC-2 Beavers on floats instead. Now a team sport, one guy flies from target to target while his buddy hangs off the strut blasting away at Volkswagen-sized targets floating in Burrard Inlet.

Men's Downhill Skiing: O.K., these downhill racers have balls, this we know. Their runs down a vertical sheet of ice look out of control, and when they crash, they really get pounded. But we, the insane, bloodthirsty fans, want more. I say we strap Martin Jetpacks on the racers and launch them down the mountain. Speed, sure thing. But when they hit those berms that are there now to create havoc on their horizontal stability, they can just goose the Jetpack and blast off towards the finish line.

Snowboard Halfpipe, Oshkosh Style: Yes, Shaun White is amazing, the absolute Michael Jordan of halfpipe. But a 1080 double backside McTwist can be a tad boring if your used to watching the afternoon airshow at EAA Airventure. So we make the half pipe a couple miles longer, and let Patty Wagstaff, Mike Guilian and Sean Tucker fit skis on their aerobatic aircraft. We let them redefine what spinning around upside down is all about, and they can even say "dude" in every sentence if they wish.

Curling: Who the hell invented curling anyway? My guess is some liqueured-up guys in either Manitoba or Upper Wisconsin got wasted one night out on the frozen lake while ice fishing, and started betting on who could slowly and with great precision glide their tackle box directly onto a mysterious yellow stain on the ice. But if aviators became curlers, that liqueur would be a cup of airport coffee, and the tackle box would be a cylinder jug off a timed-out Lycoming O-540.
So there you go, the Winter Olympics according to Av8rdan. Now back to the TV for more of Bob Costas' play-by-play during the three-man (and a woman) naked luge competition.

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