Thought for the Day: “The only guy promoting alcohol, firearms and aviation”

Builders:

In 2010 we held Corvair College #17 at a small private airstrip just north of Orlando. It was a large four day college that saw about 20 new engine runs. After looking at a number of public airports, which were not geared for having 90 people on hand for 24 hours a day, we found an airstrip owned by a gentleman who took only 5 minutes to sell on the idea of hosting a College. He really had no economic incentive to have us, it was all about welcoming other aviators.  He really liked the idea of having almost everyone camping on the grounds, and said camaraderie was what was missing from aviation today. He quickly offered the use of his on site skeet range and said that he was going to buy the builders a keg of beer every night for the campground/bonfire. I told him I wasn’t sure that was needed, but I was sure that we had found the right local host.

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The College was a lot of fun, productive and memorable. You can see a lot of photos of it at this link: http://www.flycorvair.com/cc17.html , including a campground bonfire so big we used it to smelt scrap Corvair cases and heads. Truth be told, we spent so many hours working that we hardly used the skeet range, and we never emptied the keg any of the nights.  The work was exhausting, but the hours spent together formed many friendships that have lasted the test of years since. While all Colleges are memorable, #17 is the one that often comes up in conversation as a landmark reference, same as the Woodstock festival was to music.

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When it was done, I sent out a short story on it to a number of aviation magazines, and referenced the webpage photos. Between 2000 and 2005 I wrote 50 magazine articles which were printed, mostly in EAA publications, and I was even a Contributing Editor. I had good relations with most people in the press then.  It was a time when editors were clamoring for any story that could have the words “Grass Roots” attached to it. I thought the builders at CC #17  just experienced the most grass roots -old school event in experimental aviation in 2010, so I was sure it would get picked up……but no one called. A few weeks later I spoke with my mentor in publishing, a wonderfully kind person who took the time to remind me that the type of event we had might not translate well to the general readership. She closed the discussion by pointing out that I was “The only guy promoting alcohol, firearms and aviation.”

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Photo courtesy of Mark Langford

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The photo that sank a magazine story: The picture above was part of our website coverage for Corvair College #17,  It didn’t even occur to me that it was ‘objectionable’ in an aviation story. For those that don’t know firearms, I am actually holding that 12 gauge over/under in the correct safe position, it is a break action and it is open.  Keep in mind that I never drink at Colleges. The editors who passed on the story knew me and understood that I have a rock solid rule at Colleges that no propeller turns after the sun sets, and no beer is opened while the sun is above the horizon, and that we run safe events. The problem was simple: after 30 years of marketing the ‘Disneyland’ clean cut appearance of safety, we now had a generation of aviators who could no longer distinguish the appearance of safety from actually having safety, and these people’s conditioned taste for ‘Disneyland’ precluded coverage of actual grass roots events.

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Would you like to know what was the single most popular story on by blog in 2015? It was this one: Acceptable methods of payment for Corvair parts . The number of times that story was shared in links and social media tells me that we do have many people in aviation who still have a sense of humor and it is unfortunate that the established aviation media can’t use material like that without hearing from people who make an art form out of taking offence to things.

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To be fair, the EAA under the direction of Charlie Becker and with a video crew headed by Brady Lane came to a Corvair College in Barnwell (which are always more civilized than CC #17 was) , and made an excellent documentary about the Corvair College experience. This link will take you to it: New EAA video on Corvair College#27, Barnwell 2013. It is a good example of how a video documentary leaves less room for unfounded offence takers than a print story does.

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  -ww.