I Hereby Withdraw The Previous Blog (Unequivocally)


There’s much to be said about the oblivious lifestyle. One can motor through the day—hell, an entire week—utterly carefree and with hardly a hint of the agita and chaos that so diminishes modern life. Alfred E. Neuman has, sadly, left us, but the mindset is immortal.

Thus, in my closing observations on AirVenture, I actually wrote this sentence in describing the show: “Just an even strain of ordinariness.”

I hereby retract this statement unequivocally and with a profound sense of heartfelt remorse. It must have come from that stingy, dark vortex of doom that occasionally overtakes my sunny countenance after an exhausting week of show coverage.

You might reasonably wonder what caused this change of heart. At the major shows we always report more stories than we produce, so there’s material in the can for later publication. I had shot a video on That’s All Brother, the famed C-47 that led the D-day invasion of Normandy on June 5/6, 1944. As you know, the airplane returned to Normandy this year to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

TAB is very much a bookend to the Enola Gay and it’s little exaggeration to suggest it’s just as historically relevant. I spent 40 minutes in the airplane, including the interview with Doug Rozendaal, but only on reviewing the footage did it really sink in that I was on hallowed ground. The restoration is so improbably complete that the airplane even has the Rebecca-Eureka transponder system that allowed the TAB navigator to find the dropzones the pathfinders had marked.

Where they found this hardware is beyond me, because not that much of it was made. How I considered telling this story “ordinary” is equally inexplicable and suggests you could plop me in, oh, say the X-1 cockpit and I’d have trouble stifling a yawn. Jadedness sneaks in through the cracks pried open by fatigue. (I know, it’s a pathetically weak excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.)

But that wasn’t the best part. For some reason … well, no, because even if I’m oblivious, I’m at least consistent, the intro to the video—as sadly chronicled in the gag reel here—turned into a comic opera of missed takes, mistakes, interruptions and blunders.

I’m sure I did 12 takes, the best one of which wasn’t recorded at all because the camera battery died. I could have done any number of different shots, but no, I wanted to do this when Boeing Plaza looked like Times Square at rush hour. I have my reasons. They may not be very good, but they’re mine.

But the best part was when a young father with family in tow waited until I was between blunders to ask if he could take a snapshot of me with the kids on the strength of having seen a twit—me—on YouTube. I’m always happy to do these and honored that people think our work is worthy of such notice. With a fresh battery, the camera was running so you see the results. I wish I had framed them all in the photo and got an address to send a copy. What was I saying about obliviousness and consistency?

They were having a great time and a great day. And for one shining moment, that AirVenture wide-eyed wonder rubbed off on me, if post-factum.

Ordinariness my foot. Best show ever.

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  1. Waaaaay back when, in my previous life as a USAF Boom Operator, we did the occasional “static display” of the venerable KC-135 at airshows around the country. I had the pleasure of manning the boom pod during a few of these. I always found the wonder of folks who had never heard of aerial refueling refreshing. Except for that one mouthy 12-year-old, who could never wait for me to finish a technical explanation, and who ended his visit to the boom pod with the disappointed comment, “So it’s just a big video game?”

  2. It’s not the mistakes we make whaich define us, it’s the way we deal with them. We love you even more for the humility you express in writing this. You are a great wordsmith and a good person, Paul. 🙂

  3. You need a laser, flashing blue lights, and the deluxe orange cones (the 10 foot variety) to form a “zone of death”. Even then it may not work. I’ve got a kit for sale if interested. Growling dogs optional…

  4. I know it’s not your 1st AirVenture, but just in case you forgot, the traffic always lightens up at the show on Sunday afternoon!
    Well though of course, TAB might not hang around either…..
    Thanks for putting us on….

  5. There was really nothing at all wrong with the show this year, but I’m not entirely certain that your impression of “blah” was wrong. My feelings towards Airventure this year was a bit blase, also. I’m not sure why, there were plenty of airplanes, the weather was decent, the two night airshows were fantastic, I had a great time with all of my family who attended, and I spent quality time with numerous friends. No real problems, no disappointments, but I just wasn’t “feeling it” this year. Maybe 58 years of attending the show has become formulaic, no surprises. I know what to expect every year, same old, same old over and over again. A few other friends and colleagues in the commercial displays also mumbled a bit about not “feeling it” this year. So, while I appreciate your amended response, I think that for whatever deep seated psychological reasons shared by others, your initial feeling was not off the mark.

  6. You are a graceful man Paul! You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t occasionally have regret over things said, (or written), in the past. It takes a humble person to realize that and right the ship, (or level the wings in our case) 😉 . Keep up the great work!!! You opinion and commentary are excellent!

  7. I normally like to say hello to Paul at the Press Tent–but didn’t see him this year.

    “Jadedness sneaks in through the cracks pried open by fatigue. ” I also admired that turn of phrase. Each generation produces its own brand of great aviation writers–Gil Robb Wilson (Barnstormer era through the 50s), Ernie Gann (pre and post WW II), Richard Bach (allegory), Richard Collins (technical insight)-and Paul Bertorelli for his “No BS curmudgeonly description of the way things are today”.

  8. “Unequivocally” … I like that word; not used nearly enough. Ernie is gone … Bax is gone … but we still have Paul Bertorelli who is unequivocally an exemplary aviation writer!