AirVenture 2010: More OSH Mini-Blogs

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Year of the Volunteer

I was walking toward Aeroshell Square yesterday when Doug Rozendaal pulled up in his golf cart for a chat. His first observation: EAA AirVenture 2010 ought to christened the Year of the Volunteer. He's right. The hundreds of volunteers that keep AirVenture running smoothly have always worked tirelessly to do any of a thousand jobs that you might not pay to have done but which you couldn't do without.

Even before the show got fully underway, the volunteers were dealing with impossibly soggy conditions in the North 40 and especially the camp grounds. When confronted by all of this, Rozendaal observed, they just suck it up, breath deep and improvise a solution. So a tip of the editorial hat to everyone who works the grounds without pay or recognition so the rest of us can enjoy the best airshow on earth.

A Well-Equipped Idiot

Yesterday morning, Kitplanes Editor Marc Cook and I took his Sportsman for some orbits over Wittman Field for our traditional high-def aerial video tour. We were a little pressed for time because it always takes longer to get the sophisticated camera mounts we use properly mounted and aimed. (The duct tape comes from the precision fasteners aisle at Home Depot, and not just anyone can use it.)

Bose had loaned us one of their new A20 headsets to try out, and in my haste to get it plugged in and working, I neglected to remove a large yellow tag from the side of the headset. I knew it was there, but figured it wouldn't be visible in the video and I needed to box the thing back up when I was done. So why not save a step?

When we got the footage transferred, well, there I am with the yellow tag, looking like the Minnie Pearl of the experimental aviation world. "Ya know," says Cook, "you're an idiot." He's right. I am an idiot—albeit it one with clearer audio, more noise reduction and improved comfort. We'll have the video up later today. The headset, by the way, worked the charm. Can't wait to try it with music input.

Goodyear Gets It

Our intern, Adam Cutler, took a spin in the Goodyear blimp yesterday for another video report. As it usually does, Goodyear was offering rides in the airship—45 minute spins around Wittman field with the windows open to the breeze. It doesn't get any better.

As the airship was returning for recovery, the sun was an hour from setting and the raking light made the thing look so gorgeous I was lofted momentarily into a state of dumbstruck awe. What fabulous machines man is capable of. (Don't get used to this from me, because it doesn't happen often.)

Back down to earth, what's more impressive about the blimp is its crew. Crisply attired and professional in all respects, these guys know why they're here and they handle the public and media with friendly, well-informed expertise. In a world driven by bottom-line, customers-be-damned indifference, it's a refreshing change to experience just the opposite.

Inside Randy Babbitt's Head

I'd like to go there for maybe 15 minutes to get an inside view of his world. As I was watching him at the meet the administrator session yesterday, it occurred to me that those of us who work in private industry have little use for the kind of rarified politically driven dance that defines the administrator's job. We therefore can't even understand what his job must be like. For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would voluntarily want to do it, frankly.

As administrators go, Babbitt seems to have a far clearer grasp of issues important to general aviation than have his recent predecessors. But even at that, he is atop a vast, hidebound bureaucracy with its own inertia where internal politics are the principal activity and where actual change is an occasional serendipitous byproduct. Perhaps more than any other government agency, preservation of the status quo is the FAA's core tendency.

I sense that Babbitt understands this perfectly and realizes that while administrators come and go, the bureaucracy is eternal. I have more than grudging respect for someone who can actually work in that environment and accomplish anything. I surely could not.

Comments (2)

Agree 100% with your observations and sentiments, but wanted to add one ingredient to your why-would-anyone-want-to-do-this conundrum: He's a pilot. He understands deeply how damned important the actions of this agency are. Judging from his bio, he undoubtedly understands these things on both an administrative/intellectual and emotional level. How this agency has managed to do ANYTHING productive with the hapless series of appointees up to now is what mystifies me...ummm - oh, wait a second... never mind.

Posted by: ANTHONY NASR | August 1, 2010 12:55 PM    Report this comment

As far as the Administrator goes, I ass-u-me that he sets the current tone for the bureaucrats. With some stones, he might mandate that the TCAS people modify their equipment to receive either our current transponders AND/OR our Ads-B out signals. They have mandated to us, when not mandate to the major beneficiaries of the system. Just because I live in the 30 mile tranponder circle, why should we be the only ones to have to spend money on this.

Posted by: Paul J. Warman | August 2, 2010 10:31 AM    Report this comment

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