COMMENTARY / POSITION REPORT
Does It Take…
To increase aviation participation?
IN DECEMBER MY WIFE, Sharon, and I were in Mojave, California,
for the public unveiling of SpaceShip Two. It was an outstanding
event with dignitaries from throughout the aviation and space communities. The speakers included Burt Rutan, EAA 26033, whose
visionary thinking has inspired EAAers for decades. During Burt’s
comments, he expressed that the current team he has assembled at
Scaled Composites is the best he’s ever had.
Shortly after, project engineer Matt Stinemetze, EAA 819816,
came on stage to introduce the team Burt recognized. Many are
EAA members, but everyone in this small group of creative people
demonstrates the innovative thinking and can-do attitude that has
become a hallmark of EAA. It reminded me of a night a number of
years ago when I stood on the Theater in the Woods stage at
Oshkosh as Burt announced, “Someday I will arrive at Oshkosh via
space.” Most in the audience probably did not take him seriously.
That’s not the case anymore!
Over the decades, Burt has assembled dedicated EAAers, like
Mike Melvill, EAA 53387, who converted his concepts into reality.
As I watched WhiteKnight Two taxi out of the darkness, with
SpaceShip Two attached between its two sleek fuselages, I asked
myself the question, “What does it take to build a spaceship?” The
question is enormous, but the answer is simple…a person with a vision and a
dedicated group of EAAers who can make that dream a reality!
Most of us will never build a spacecraft. But each EAA member can use
imagination and ingenuity to answer another complex question: “What does
it take to grow aviation?” It requires long-term investments in aviation’s
future at a level that has never been seen before. Those investments include
EAA programs such as Young Eagles, sport pilot/light-sport aircraft, and our
upcoming initiative, Learn to Fly Day, May 15, 2010.
At the heart of these initiatives are individual EAA members and chap-
ters. You are the pilots and coordinators who fly young people and serve as
mentors as we guide and support their aviation interests. You provide the
relationships and sense of community that
fuel that passion we have for aviation and its
future. The Learn to Fly initiative will be an
opportunity to promote the sport pilot certifi-
cate, which reduces the barriers of time and
money for those who dream of flying. We are
starting to see the numbers and types of light-
sport aircraft growing, building a
flight-training infrastructure that will signifi-
cantly reduce the cost of training.