Something to be grateful for

On this day, on the eve of the holiest day in the Christian year, perhaps it is a good occasion to pause and consider what is worth being thankful for. Aviation is the centerpiece of my life’s work, and it is easy to forget that the achievable dreams of aviators here, are not possible to the great majority of people on earth. By the absolute luck of our birth, something none of us ‘earned’, we live in a world that has freedom for individuals to strive for things that others will never be allowed to know.

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Think about this:

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In the one hundred and eleven years since the wright brothers flew, more than eight billion humans have been born on this planet. Out of this number, perhaps fewer than 450,000 have flown a privately owned plane, and maybe a tenth of that number has flown an aircraft that they built themselves. The overwhelming number of flights of aircraft that were personal creations of the pilot happened in America.

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I do not conjure this thought to congratulate my countrymen; quite the reverse. I mention it as a reminder of their indescribable good fortune of being born in our imperfect country, but the one that affords an incredible head start on an individual achieving flight on their own skills, a dream that predates modern recorded history and perhaps language itself. Consider your good fortune compared to vast majority of humans on this planet: I don’t think your fellow humans begrudge your fortune, but I believe that they would beseech you to do something with it.

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Picture a 15 year old young man in the slums of the Angolan city of Ondjiva. He is watching a Beech 1900 of Air Nambia that comes to his small city twice a week. He wanted to fly planes but he never will. He is missing both of his feet, as he stepped on a land mine when he was 12. It had been put in the ground 24 years before he was born. The helicopter flight that saved his life will be the only time in his life he is airborne, and he does not remember it. He consoles himself that there really was no chance he would have been allowed to fly anyway, as he is a member of one of Angola’s numerous ethnic minorities, he would have been excluded from doing anything meaningful with his life, yet he still looks at the planes.  Had he been born here, his story might have been very different. His handicap would not have stopped him from flying, even racing planes. Even as a minority, could have gone to college and earned a degree in aerospace engineering, serving for decades designing cutting edge aircraft. If he was born here, he could have been Neil Loving

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Imagine a 13 year old girl living in Conakry Guinea, west Africa. It is a city of two million people, and you have never heard of it. She is watching an airliner trace a line across the sky. She has done well in school, and hopes to escape the poverty of her world and her dream is to fly one of those planes. But her dream will never happen. Her culture is world epicenter of the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation, and it is done to 96% of the women there. It is not done by the state, nor the faith, but it will be done to her by her family, who will believe they are making her a much better servant and wife, the only goal they can imagine for her. Had this girl been born here, and dreamed of flying to expand her world beyond being a mother and wife, she could have been Jerrie Mock.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerrie_Mock

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Perhaps there is a 20 year old man in Gansu province China. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, and the average wage is less that $2 a day. He has always liked machines, and harbors a private dream of being a pilot one day, but it will never happen. In a country that still has hundreds of millions of people living on less than $5 a day, there is no opportunity. He is bright, and worked hard in school, but he took a standardized test when he was 14 he didn’t do well. He knows this ended any chance of further schooling and effectively sentenced him to a life of subsistence toil. Still, when a plane flies overhead, he can not help himself, he looks up and follows it path in the sky and wonders what his life might have been. Had this man had the fortune of being born here, he would have found that our system places value on all kinds of thinking. He would be stunned to learn that one of the most influential aviators of all time had an IQ of 88. His name was John Boyd.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_(military_strategist)

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Think of a 19 year old woman living in Ahvaz, one of the eight cities in Iran with a population over one million. As a girl she listened to her fathers stories of working on F-14s in the Iranian Air force at Mehrabad. When she was too young to know better, she told he father she wanted to be a pilot. She did not understand the look on his face or why he stopped speaking of planes to her. That was many years ago, but she still thinks about her dream when she sees a plane. But this is not her real secret. What she can not share with anyone is far more dangerous, and carries a penalty in her country: She is attracted to other women. She is good at hiding this, but one day when she is older, in a moment of weakness she will confide in the wrong person, and this will end with her in prison for 20 years. It will be considered “merciful”, she could have been sentenced to death by stoning. If this woman had been born here, she could have done anything she wanted in aviation. Her attractions would not have been a crime, and the certainly would not have been the business of the state, or anyone else. Had she been born here, she could have been Sally Ride.

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Ride-s.jpg

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Ride

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 Think about it……….

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

5 Responses to Something to be grateful for

  1. Gary Ray says:

    When I think about man’s perpetual inhumanity to man, I am reminded of one of George Carlin’s statements. Paraphrasing, “I have lost faith in humanity, but I am gaining them back one at a time.” This much smaller group, people that live principled lives and take personal responsibility in managing their lives are the only possible source of future aircraft builders that can actually complete the project. They are the only people worth your time.

  2. Ray Klein says:

    William, Once again a thought provoking entry. Your philosophy is as always, spot on. True freedom is no longer strived for because of one requirement….PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!

  3. Steven Meier says:

    Awesome post William! One of your best ever. Thank you for these thoughts.

  4. Noell Wilson says:

    Hi William, I think an inaccurate rumor started about William Boyd having an IQ of 88. Look at
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_(military_strategist) And I think it’s obvious that he was not of below average intelligence.
    Sincerely, Noell Wilson
    Carrollton, Georgia

    • Noell,
      I only know one person who knew Boyd personally, and it is that man’s opinion that Boyd liked repeating he had tested at 88 because he wanted his adversaries to underestimate him, this supports your perspective. Personally I think Boyd’s achievements had more to do with his tenacious pursuit of understanding rather than gifted intelligence. Thank you for your thoughts on this. -ww.

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