We Sometimes Forget Non-Aviators
Don't Get Revved up Over Airplanes
and the Noises They Make

10:28 PM

So many of us have the exact same tale, the same personal provenance that describes our entry into the world of aviation. With rare exception, if you get 10 pilots in a room and get them talking about how they began their personal lovefest with flying machines, the story will usually go something like this generic version:
"Somewhere between my fifth and tenth year of life, my dad/grandpa/older brother took me to an air show where I saw a bunch of neato airplanes. Next thing you know, I was riding my Sting Ray bike to the airport, hanging on the fence watching the stuff fly by. It was mesmerizing. When I was old enough to fly, I'd go hang out at that little field just outside of town, and wash airplanes in exchange for a few lessons. I was working towards my private ticket when I (a) went to college, (b) had a family to support and (c) never had the money to finish up. At about age 35 though, with a career in full swing, I was able to earn my private license and an instrument rating. I bought a Cessna 172 and when my company stock went through the roof, I bought a Bonanza A36."
Yes, we aviators are all pretty similar, and in many ways, fairly predictable. You can be guaranteed that the guy/gal in the hangar next to you will loan you their air compressor, or that on any given day, maybe 100,000 of us will be hanging at the airport coffee shop telling our tablemates wild flying tales of yesteryear, many of which are actually true.

But outside of the aviation world, it is sometimes clear that we aviators have little in common with humans who cannot fly airplanes. There are two breeds of people on this planet, those who regularly get to see the same side of clouds as God, and those who must buy a ticket in an airliner to do the same.

This weekend, I had an exchange with a non-aviator that I thought illustrates the differences well. It came down like this:
I was enjoying dessert in the lovely backyard of a friend, sharing the table with a couple of people I did not know. I mentioned as I always do that I was a pilot, and I was asked if I had a "jet fetish". I told him that yes, of COURSE I want to fly and own a jet, and that any GA pilot who says they don't is a liar. The guy mentioned that his grandfather had flown "old prop jobs" and he thought it was a DC-something, he thought it had a 3 in the name. I asked, "you must mean a DC-3?" "Yes, that was it," he replied, going for another forkful of double chocolate cake.
This was the opening I was waiting for, the chance to talk about flying. I'm always on the lookout to talk about my passion, but sometimes this can backfire big time. Here is a rough transcript of what happened next:
Av8rdan: "Oh, DC-3s! Hey, let me tell you about what's happening in Oshkosh this summer."
Non-aviator guy: "Oshkosh, you mean like 'B'Gosh? The overalls for rug rats? That Oshkosh?"
Me: "No, Oshkosh the world's largest air show, in Wisconson in late July. Bratwurst, Patty Wagstaff, cool aviation toys...THAT Oshkosh."
Him: "Oh." [blank stare]
Me: "Yeah, they are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the DC-3 with a formation flight of 40 DC-3s."
Him: "Forty DC-3s, is that a lot?"
Me: "Uh, yeah. It is huge, the biggest thing to happen at Oshkosh, maybe ever. The sky will be filled with aluminum, FORTY of the coolest vintage airliners wingtip to freakin' wingtip, maybe for the last time...ever! Oh, and a bunch of them will be C-47s."
Him: [no reply, just a blank stare]
Me: "It is going to be awesome. Can you even IMAGINE the sound of EIGHTY RADIAL ENGINES all arriving over show center at once? My God, one radial engine is enough to stop us pilot types in our tracks, and force us to stare up in the sky listening to that sweet airplane noise. No, I'm talking EIGHTY RADIAL ENGINES, all at once, same sky." I was almost hyperventilating describing the scene.
Him: "So, this airplane noise is a good thing?"
Me: "You have been to the symphony, right?"
Him: "Sure."
Me: "It is going to be like going to the symphony for pilots at Oshkosh on that day when the DC-3 formation flies over to open the show. Only times, like a million."
Him: [another blank stare]. After looking at me like I was nuts, he politely excused himself to go sit with other non-aviators who think airplane noise is something to be loathed instead of embraced.
O.K., this is a serious embellishment of what was really said. But I had to add the dramatic emphasis to make the point, and keep you reading.

The next time I am socializing with non-aviators, I shall do what's noble and try to hold back on the flying stuff...unless of course they ask. If they give me an opening, I might just unload with some good old fashioned, 100LL-fueled aviation talk. Maybe I will convince them that my world is worth exploring, a world where men and women soar like eagles in magical machines that defy gravity most of the time.

But I am sure that at some point I will again generate those same blank stares. It is almost a foregone conclusion when I am amongst non-aviators that I will let my guard down and start gushing over the way a P-51 sounds when it makes a high-speed, low pass over Oshkosh, or the way a Pilatus PC-12 can do carrier landings on a dime and give you .09 cents change.

Passion. It's what we aviators do.

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