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Music and Aviation: A Match Made in the Sky

Dee Welch, a member of the Seaplane Pilots Association (FMA Corporate Member), has donated a guitar to be raffled off to support the Seaplane Pilots Association's New Headquarters project and the Flying Musicians Association. This is just one example of the projects the FMA is involved in.

"Many people don’t have a passion; we are fortunate enough to have two!"

This is the driving force behind the Flying Musicians Association – a non-profit 501c3 organization that is bringing aviation and music together – according to co-founder John Zapp. Formed in 2008 and incorporated a year later, Zapp and Aileen Hummel formed the company to aid pilots who are musicians to share their passions in order to inspire, educate, and encourage others by creating enthusiasm and promoting personal growth in both fields.

The FMA has an extensive list of goals – the first of which is to encourage youth to embrace STEAM power (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) through the use of aviation and music. Zapp and Hummel noticed much discussion for the need to grow the pilot population, and have identified musicians and music students as the most likely demographic to succeed. The musically-inclined have an aptitude for listening, scanning, multi-tasking and their pursuit of perfection – all skills and practices needed for piloting aircraft. The US Air Force completed a study of students in their flight training program to see which academic fields were the most successful in completing flight training. It wasn't the engineers who had the highest percentage of completion or any other discipline, it was the music students.

The FMA has already established chapters at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Western Michigan University in an effort to extend their goals into learning institutions, and continue to seek expansion into other colleges, high schools, and aviation communities. They have also received a partial grant from the Wolf Aviation Fund to help FMA spearhead the "Focus on the Future" program held at the FAPA.aero Global Pilot Career Conference & Job Fairs and the Regional Airline Pilot Job Fairs.

Zapp attributes much of their success so far to their own promotion, as well as their corporate members, which include organizations such as the AOPA, Sky-Tec, That Other Label, Barmstorming the Movie, Bose," Zapp listed as an example.

You can show your support for their cause as well – it’s only $25/year to become a member ($15 for students), and special rates for Life and Corporate Members as well. Funding, grants and sponsorships are their greatest need to continue the growth they’re experienced for the last five years.

Confessions of a Student Pilot

Over the past 5 years I have more than earned my right to be called a student pilot. Between when I was 12 years old and now I have attended 3 different flight schools, passed my FAA Written Exam twice, and been lightheartedly made fun of by CFIs for rookie mistakes countless times. It’s been said that it’s about the journey, not the destination, and this rings incredibly true in the world of aviation. I have learned more about life and passion through aerospace than I ever learned in my standard high school curriculum. I have been taught discipline, self-control, dedication, logical thinking... All through my experiences in chasing my dream of becoming a pilot.

I hope to help other student pilots remember why they are doing this. It can be such a challenge to continue training when you feel you are stuck in a rut, or you will never achieve the dream that we all chase after. I have compiled a few observations or "confessions," if you will, that have stuck out to me during my journey. A few come with stories, a few are simply food for thought. Here are my confessions of a student pilot.

Keep your training consistent. This may seem obvious, but it keeps many student pilots from advancing quickly enough to reach their full potential. It is far better to wait and save up enough money for a flight lesson every week or so than to attend your flight school sporadically. For the first 3 years of my training I could only afford one lesson every month (between allowance and babysitting money that wasn’t too bad!) If I could go back and do it again, I would have saved up for a year or so and had lessons sequentially in just a couple months. In having to wait, I kept relearning the same concepts every month and was nowhere near reaching my full potential.

Don’t be scared to be assertive. On June 19th, 2013 I was on a routine flight with my instructor, going around the traffic pattern at Capital City airport. As my instructor continually pointed out, I was spending too much time with my eyes glued to the instrument panel and not enough time looking outside. As I turned for my downwind leg, he held a sheet of paper over the instrument panel to stop my nervous eyes from glancing inside too much. I huffed a bit, then began making a call to other traffic that I was on downwind. "Capital City traffic, Cessna -" my heart sank. I hadn’t memorized our tail number yet and the sheet of paper was obscuring my view of it. Without skipping a beat, I forcefully moved (read: slapped) my instructor’s hand out of the way, read the tail number off, and finished my radio call. I immediately felt bad and apologized for what I had done, but I had never seen my instructor so thrilled. "That’s what I’m talking about! THAT was a pilot in command move. If you know what you need to do, don’t ask my permission." The very next day I was endorsed and did my first solo flight. Which is the perfect segway into my next point...

Your solo IS as big of a deal as everyone says. Let’s say you have comprehended enough knowledge to safely takeoff and land an aircraft, and your instructor has enough faith in your abilities to let you do it completely by yourself. Congratulations, it’s time to fly solo! The whole ordeal in and of itself isn’t a big change from your previous lessons, as you have probably done exactly the same routine of taking off and landing many times before your instructor steps out. The real value and importance of a solo isn’t in the fact that there is one less passenger, it is that YOU are now the pilot in command. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.3, "The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." You are now the CEO head honcho in charge of all aspects of safely executing your current flight mission. The boost of confidence that a student pilot gains after safely landing their first solo flight is astronomical. Celebrate this accomplishment and truly think about what it means to now be the pilot in command.

Networking is everything. I am a first-generation pilot. Nobody in my family has any ties to aviation, besides a strange obsession with warbirds my father and grandfather share. When I first started my flight training I felt like a very tiny fish in a very huge pond. All that I knew was that becoming a pilot was extremely expensive, difficult, and overwhelming... but that I absolutely could not live my life without doing it. I had not met a single female pilot in my first two years of training, but I knew they had to be out there. I began doing google searches, talking to family friends, and subscribed to seven different flight magazines in an attempt to gain an understanding of the general aviation community as a whole. Through a family friend I came in contact with a female UPS pilot, and she introduced me to the Ninety-Nines. From there I learned about Women in Aviation, AOPA, EAA, NBAA, all of these crazy acronyms which represented different organizations in the aviation community. I have met tons of interesting people who have taken a genuine interest in my future as a pilot, and I have learned so much about the different pathways that are available to me in the aerospace industry. Having a good network to support you is incredibly important for an aspiring pilot.

Do not give up. The most important "confession" I have for fellow student pilots is to not give up, no matter how difficult it becomes. Keep trying. Stay motivated. There have been times in my training where I have been completely overwhelmed and felt very unsure as to whether or not I would actually achieve my dreams. When this happens, I like to take a step back and evaluate what really draws me to aviation in the first place. I watch episodes of The Aviators, or read aviation literature and really soak in the pure beauty and freedom that a pilot can obtain. The challenge is half the fun, however daunting it may seem. I encourage all student pilots to really think about what keeps them going and to cling to it until they finally reach the day of achieving their ultimate goals.

Nellie and Abe, and the Grace They Provide

On September 21, I dropped by the Grace on Wings Family Aviation Festival and Hog Roast at the Indianapolis International Airport. Coming from the south end of the airport (which is mostly under construction and fenced off), I begin to wonder if I was lost – soon there were signs that guided me in. I found a hangar full of life and activity!

Bidders gather for the final moments of the silent auction.

The star attraction of the day seemed to be the Silent Auction. Tables and tables full of items up for grabs! Most of the hangar was filled with patrons of the hog roast – picnic tables with pulled pork and all the trim. The can’t miss vendor table near the entrance was packed with figurines of all sizes carved from olive wood grown in Bethlehem. Plus bouncy castles for the kids in the background let you know this truly was for the whole family.

The festival was to raise funds for Grace on Wings, the nation’s only charity air ambulance service. I spoke with Hal Blank, CEO and Chief Pilot, about this festival; with a turnout of over 1,100 over the course of the day, he was very pleased. "We always pray to at least break even. We’ve been doing this for seven years, and this event was one of our best! We served over 600 meals (at $10/adult, $5/child), plus the silent auction was huge. We also gave 71 free flights to kids as part of EAA Young Eagles program. But the largest success is always getting the word out about ourselves and telling about the opportunities we've had to be able to help families in need. In fact, many of our patients were there to celebrate with us Saturday!"

This little piggie was pretty much decimated by the crowd!

Grace on Wings was inspired by the need of two young Indianapolis girls who suffered from a genetic bone disorder that required regular visits to a Baltimore specialist -- more than 11 hours away by car. With the support of charitable funding, they provide transport to patients who are needing to go long distances for important treatment throughout the United States. Their two air ambulances, "Nellie" and "Abe", two customized Mitsubishi MU-2B Turboprops, were on hand outside the hangar for all to see. Both are equipped with oxygen, oxygen saturation monitors, portable ventilator, cardiac monitors, baby pods, defibrillators and more.

Blank shared the stories behind each aircraft’s name. "Nellie is named after Nell Wood, a missionary nurse who travelled the world. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, and they funded the original $10,000 seed money for Grace on Wings to purchase the aircraft, so it was named in her honor."

"Nellie" sitting outside the hanger for all to see.

"When Nellie needed to undergo routine maintenance, we needed to purchase a second aircraft since she was going to unable to make runs during that time. We went to Farmer’s Bank (who financed the purchase of Nellie) for additional funds, and they stepped up for us again. Since the registration of this one was 777LP, we took the LP to mean the "Lord’s Promise", so Abraham was the obvious choice. Abe served five families while Nellie was down."

How a patient would be transported in "Abe" .

Blank also explained that with the two different models come different advantages. "Nellie is a J-model, which sits lower to the ground. So loading is easier – we can use a 400-pound loading system with her. Abe, the 36A-model, is the best choice for long distance flights.

For more information on Grace on Wings and the services they provide, plus how you can participate, check them out here

A Feast for the Eyes: EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, Part 2

This is a continuation of my article on the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend. To see Part 1, click here.

We moved over to a beautiful little Cessna 172L Skyhawk, and chatted with its owner Keith Mountain. Keith, a native Australian, stateside for 35 years now, still has a strong hint of an accent that sets him apart from the Kentucky twangers (like myself at times). He explained that he has owned this Skyhawk for about three years – he sought it out for the 180hp constant speed prop conversion, plus the fact that both windows open. The latter was important for him since he does a lot of aerial photography.

Keith grew up with flying, as the farms where he worked frequently used cropdusters in the fields. When we joined the Australian army, he worked with C130s, Bell 212s and Caribous. He got all his ratings 25 years ago when he was considering a career in aviation.

Finally, we chatted with Jerry Depew from Knoxville, and his son Jeremy Hunt. They flew in with their Bonanza 35 C-model V-tail – Jerry joked that they were both "built in the same year – 1951". His Bonanza still has the original 185/205 hp engine, and has only replaced the glass and cylinders – other than a major overhaul, it’s a stock airplane. He’s owned it the same amount of time he’s been married – 17 years. "I asked her permission and she waivered. I thought about it, but kept her anyway!"

When I asked about what got him interested in flying, it was a family affair for him as well. "My father had an airplane, so when I was first flying I couldn’t see out of the windows! I could only see the ground when he turned left base or left for final."

Jerry also shared how he got his first job in aviation. "I just got my driver’s license – since I loved aviation, my first drive was to the airport. The pilots that hung out there asked if I was there to apply for the job. ‘What job?’ was my reply. They needed a lineman, and I asked what they do. So I spoke with the man in charge and got the job. I wound up endorsing my paychecks over to a flight instructor and got my license that year."

Jerry, the editor of the Knoxville EAA newletter, also enjoys collecting aviation stories like me, and shared a gem he heard from Peter Koza in Louisville. "Flying is NOT expensive. The cost of therapy and anti-depressants ARE expensive! Besides, if you take anti-depressants, you have no medical to fly, no libido, no sex, and then you are REALLY depressed!"

Enjoy these additional photos from the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend!

A Feast for the Eyes: EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, Part 1

The weather was perfect this weekend for a countryside drive from Louisville to the Falls of Rough. There, at Rough River State Park’s airport (2I3) was the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, where pilots and aviation enthusiasts from Kentucky and surrounding areas to get together for the weekend. Activities, beyond the typical aircraft sightseeing and meeting old friends (or making new ones), included a poker run, spot landing contest, a Friday night hospitality room, and a Saturday evening banquet.

When my wife and I arrived, the poker run was underway, so many pilots were in the air. But there was still about 30 aircraft of many varieties hanging around, with their pilots grabbing from brats, burgers and potato salad, and sharing their experiences. We wondered around, snapping photos and talking to a few until the batteries on my camera faded away.

Nathan Robertson was minding his parent’s 1950 Cessna 195 when I wondered over – they were off chatting with some friends. His wife was changing their baby’s diaper in the back seat, which made me wonder if a car seat in an aircraft is still called a "carseat".

While his parents, Phillip and Tia, are career commercial pilots, Nathan only recently got his license. "Growing up around aviation, I took it for granted – if I wanted to go flying, I’d just ask them to take me up. When my friends wanted to go flying, and mentioned that they wanted to be adopted by my parents so they could be taken up like that, I began to realize this was something I wanted as well. I got my license in January, plan to get all my ratings, and possibly make a career out of it myself."

We also discussed the difficulty the younger generation faces when pursuing their licenses – Nathan had an approach to consider to fast-track it. "Get books and DVDs, study and get the written exam out of the way first. That way you can just do 20-25 hours flying to save expenses. Most people, like myself, focus on flying first because it’s more fun, but that can stretch out your training time and cost. However, if you decide to make a career out of it, in the grand scheme of things it’s really not that expensive!"

Part 2 of this article can be found here. In the meantime, enjoy these additional photos!

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