The Power Of Stories
The other day, when PBS announced they will air a Nova special about Solar Impulse on January 31, I typed “Solar Impulse” into AVweb’s search engine to see how we’ve covered it. I found 73 hits, dating back to 2003. We covered the project pretty thoroughly, from inception to completion, yet the goal of the project wasn’t really about aviation at all — the organizers aimed to promote clean energy technologies. Nonetheless, it involved an airplane, and a challenge — it personified the age-old story of obsession in pursuit of an elusive and unprecedented goal.
Stories like this might seem irrelevant to some pilots, compared to articles about new airplanes, or avionics, or regulations, nuts and bolts kinds of things that we all need to know. But I think adventure stories are essential to the whole experience of aviation. Take someone for their first flight in a small airplane, and they might decide to become a pilot, but lots of folks enjoy the ride and never come back. Movies, books and museums can communicate to people that aviation is part of something bigger, and they can be part of that story. Stories have the power to inspire people to pursue the challenging sport or vocation of aviation.
So besides the Nova special, I was glad to read about the plans in Colorado to open a new Exploration of Flight museum, at Centennial Airport. The project’s Blue Sky Gallery will provide interactive exhibits and activities about aviation. Visitors will get to try out a flight simulator, and learn about famous aviators of the past. The programming is designed to “educate, entertain, and inspire,” according to the museum website. All this aims to help to recruit new workers needed in the aviation sector, from pilots to mechanics to flight attendants. Russ Niles wrote recently about the death of ultralight pilot Bill Lishman, who taught Canada geese to follow him in flight. His story inspired the movie Fly Away Home, a fiction version of the event, but it captured the spirit of ultralight flying. I’ll bet that movie planted a seed in at least a few people who got out there and tried ultralights for themselves.
I wrote about the inspiration of books a few years ago, and readers weighed in with their own favorites. Do you have any to add? What about movies or museums?