Sunday, November 22, 2015

Updated: Aviators vs. Pilots vs. Aeromantics

UPDATE: I don't often come back to update a post, but this is a special case. This is one of those posts where I sat down at the keyboard with no real plan for what I was going to write and just followed a stream of consciousness - I sometimes don't feel all that great about where they ended up.

I was undecided on this one.

On the plus side, it elicited a comment from Hugo, who has been with me for two blogs now, if not three:

Hugo said...
Aeromantic? To me, flying has always been a romance of soft touches and gentle caresses of the controls.

I think aeromantic is exactly the word I was looking for. I had a couple of votes for 'aerophile', but that doesn't feel right to me. To me, a 'somethingphile' is someone that has made a study to something to a very deep and broad degree. Putting forth that level of effort definitely indicates a strong and abiding interest in something, and perhaps some level of fondness, but not necessarily at a visceral level.

Conversely, 'romance' is typically equated more with 'love' - that's the level I was looking for.

So, for the remainder of this post, should you choose to endure it, just mentally substitute aeromantic in place of the other word (you'll know it when you see it).


I was looking for a word that would make a distinction between those who are attracted to airplanes because they can be a fast, efficient way to travel, and those that are attracted to airplanes because, well, because that is simply who and what they are. The former may look at a Cirrus SR-22 and appreciate it for its high speed, sophisticated avionics, and its potentially life-saving ballistic recovery parachute.

The latter? They see it completely differently. Yes, they too may have consideration for the aforementioned utilitarian aspects - the distinction that I am trying to make is by no mean mutually exclusive, but the second set of folks would be just as attracted to the graceful curves and elegant aesthetic balance of the Cirrus even if it plodded along at 90 knots, guided by a magnetic compass and an old Timex watch.

I used my pal, Dr. Google, PhD, to see if there is a commonly accepted distinction between the words 'pilot' and 'aviator', and the best he could come up with makes the distinction out to be primarily about natural ability. A pilot, in the definition I found, flies mechanically, while an aviator has a natural touch evidenced by smooth control and a way of making the whole thing look easy.

Going about the search a different way, I asked the doc about "people that love airplanes," and came up with a word in the Urban Dictionary that I'm not overly comfortable with: "Aerosexual."

While not fond of the word itself, I did find that the definition was pretty much what I was looking for:
A person having an avid love and sexual desire of aircraft beyond the average persons interest. They openly admit their love of aviation and all things air-related. They are often found prowling the fences of nearby airports watching planes takeoff and land.
There's even a Facebook page for openly aerosexual folks that seem to be primarily interested in airliners to gather:

So, despite my initial reticence, I guess I'm going to have to accept the word.

Now, as we all know, I absolutely love giving rides to [forcing myself to type it] aerosexuals. As hard to believe as it may sound, even the staunchest of us tend to start to take it all for granted, at least with regards to our own airplane. It's a fact of human nature that we can get used to just about anything, or at least anything that's really good. We still love it, but that initial infatuation can eventually be dampened by routine, One way to recover some of that early excitement is to share it with people for whom it's still brand new, for whom it's still a longing, still an unrequited love, still a passion.

It's contagious. It rekindles some of that early excitement.  And, it's fun!

A couple of days ago, I flew with an [I really, really, need a better word] aerosexual that I had flown with before, back in the RV-6 days,  That was seven years and twenty days ago.  Back then, she had taken a couple hours of instruction with the hopes of getting a license, but as it often does, the rest of life got in the way.  Work, kids, all of that day to day stuff - it has a way of pushing dreams aside. Still, there's an hour or two now and then that can be spent sitting on the road on the approach end of the airport watching. It's not just watching, of course, No, it's something much deeper.

It's longing.

Before I go on, I would be remiss of me to not at least offer you the chance to review that long ago flight. So.... here.

This time around, the only real difference was the airplane. Back then, I was aware of the RV-12, but had no idea that I would eventually build one. Other than that, it was pretty much a repeat: we met early in the morning at the airport gate, flew around doing stuff on the way to Urbana for a late breakfast, and flew back.

There is one big difference, though: with the RV-12, I'm as equally comfortable flying from the right seat as I am from the left. Another difference is cost: at a current $2.28/gallon for 91 octane Mogas, I can fly as often as I want without much consideration at all for the fuel spend.  The point of this is that while I can't do official, loggable flight instruction, I can let people fly from the left seat and give them sufficient awareness of how things work, how to use the fancy new avionics, how to enter an airport landing pattern, etc. so when they do go get professional instruction, they can get through to getting their license in the minimum hours required by the FAA.

That can be a huge cost savings!

On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday I flew with a 16 year old that has aspirations for becoming a military aviator. Austin has his eyes on the USAF, but like a true aviator, he would settle for the Navy if that was the only other option. (Don't get yourselves all worked up, Navy - I was in the USAF and just have a little bias on the subject of military branches)

Most of our time was spent on the ground getting acquainted, and with me asking him about his plans.  He's got a very good plan in place that starts with getting his license now - you may remember that Pete, my building partner on N284DG, has a son (Keith) that's currently learning in USAF T-1 Jayhawks down in Texas. Keith went the ROTC route, while Austin will be working towards an academy appointment with ROTC as a fallback plan, but I figure Keith will make a great adviser on the subject of getting a pilot slot.  My contribution will be to help Austin get his civilian rating in the minimum number of hours, something that's bound to look good to the military selection boards.

Our flight was brief (I only had 7 gallons in the tank), but it was enough to tell that Austin has a natural feel for flying. This, I think, can be attributed to time spent flying simulators, and time spent driving/piloting the family boat. Both of those may sound insignificant, but in my opinion they are not.

The contribution of the sims is probably obvious, but the boat? Not so much. Where the boat will help is in the cognitive understanding of current. Docking across current uses the same concepts as crosswind takeoffs and landings - one of the hardest things for new pilots to learn.

One thing that I will find interesting about flying with someone as young as Austin is our stark differences between the old school and modern conveniences.  I know I'm going to sound like that old guy that's always going on about how I had to "walk a mile to school through bitter cold snow storms" (because I did, in fact, have to do that), but the reality is that flying is far easier than it used to be. We had a ratty old paper speaker in the top of the old 172's cockpit and a hand microphone. Now we have ANR headsets. We had VORs, which were more or less okay for keeping us on course, but only the wealthy had any kind of distance measuring equipment.

This was brought home to me in a conversation we had through the text messaging on our iPhones. Austin wanted to know if there was a way that he could check the weather to see if it would be flyable or not. I directed him to an app called AeroWeather and showed him how to pull up the TAF from KCMH. Being the old "walking to school" guy, I texted that "This is another of those things that used to be a real pain, but is now super easy."

His reply was classic:

"How would you find this information before? Website?"

What a world we live in when having to actually go to a website seems archaic!!


Anonymous said...

Aerosexual? Yeah, you (we) definitely need a different and better term. While I and many others I know fit the description pretty well, there's no sexual component to our love. It's like dogs -- love 'em, but not in THAT way.

David said...

how about Aerophile instead of aerosexual?

Hugo said...

Aeromantic? To me, flying has always been a romance of soft touches and gentle caresses of the controls.

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