Grace and I were a small part of promoting the Sport Pilot program all the way back to meetings held at EAA headquarters in the winter of 2003. I had great hope that it would usher in a revival of purist stick and rudder flying, a giant correction to an industry which was mired in promoting ‘glass cockpits’ and the plague of powered parachutes.
When is came to pass, it contained most of what I hoped for, but the media coverage was rapidly hijacked by ‘affordable’ $179K Rotax/Euro trash all sporting wheels and brakes liberated from Italian scooters and then Cessna’s Chinese fecal masterpiece, the C-162 ‘Spincatcher’. All of these things were marketed with pictures of yuppies who walked out of a 1988 J. Crew catalogue. Comparatively, I had hoped for Mark Donohue in Nomex, driving a 1968 Penske Camaro and they had sent a guy named Biff in a sweater, driving a Prius and told me to be happy about it..
As an emotional revolt to this, I spent the after hours of Oshkosh 2005 drinking beer and ranting to Gus Warren and Grace about how we would start a revolt, a correction, in the form of a very loose knit flying club, a brotherhood of people who would understand what had always been great about flying pure and simple planes. All things about the club would be evaluated on one basis only : Would Pappy Boyington do this?
Above, the critical artwork, a visual call to arms for the faithful of flying, a summons from all that was holy in flight. This was drawn in a moment of inspiration by Gus Warren, and carefully pressed by Grace between the pages of Langewiesche’s Stick and Rudder to await the start of the revolution.
The membership was to be somewhat secretive, so we could infiltrate the regular aviation media, and wait for the right moment to strike. The members would know each other because their planes would bear a 4″ green roundel on the tail, with the letters “FMU”, reminiscent of eight ball on the tail of a Comanche 400. The more beer I had, the clearer the plan became. I had discovered the antidote. I put my head on the pillow that night contemplating the modest tone I would take in my inevitable speech at the theater in the woods, when the new regime was in control and a bronze statue of both Pappy and Paul hoisting a beer together under the brown arch, after they were done escorting the C-162 people off the premises.
I awoke the next morning to the memory of A. E. Housman’s ode to ale, Terrence this is stupid stuff, his observation that “Ale does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways with man.” I was particularly caught on the lines:
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
What was FMU to stand for? Flying Monkeys from Uranus of course.