Monday, 23 July 2018

How I View Aviation Differently Now

This wasn't the Across The Pond segment I was preparing to record last Saturday.

I write this on Sunday 15th July and what a week I have had. Now, before anyone gets worried, I am absolutely fine and recovering well. To all of those who sent me healing messages, I am extremely humbled by the whole experience, that I will talk about in a moment.

A week ago, on Saturday 7th, I had a fabulous day out with my wife and our seven year old daughter. It was my annual pilgrimage to Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton for the 2018 Air Day Air Show. (This year though it was going to be a different experience for me. We decided that although I would still carry out my duties for Xtended and The Airplane Geeks (as I have always brought material back to the podcasts), this time we would experience an Air Show as spectators. 

I had forgotten how much one could enjoy the experience without either a recorder, (or like many listening here) a camera glued to my face. Always trying to get a good angle, always thinking about what the listeners or our social media followers would like. 

Whilst I enjoy doing this (and we get amazing feedback for our efforts), it makes these days pretty hard and demanding. 

Last week I reconnected with the Air Show. We wandered through aircraft like the Canadian C130 and talked to the crew, my daughter amazed at the size and complexity of the inside belly of this aircraft. 

We looked at foreign visitor displays stands and peruse their merchandise. Beatrice bought a red arrows cap and model of a Hawk. We met Red 10 (the Red Arrows Supervisor and commentator) Squadron Leader Adam Collins and we snatched a quick selfie even though he obviously had pressing things to do, he was an absolute Gentleman, making my daughter feel like a VIP. 

We wandered the crowds and I saw lots of other families enjoying a summer day out. Not aviation geeks, photographers or press just families enjoying aeroplanes and the other attractions. 

I remembered what Air shows are about on that visit. Yes, I'm a part of a system that air shows need, I am a part of a group of avgeeks there to see the latest scheme, manoeuvre, air-frame or registration. 

But, we are a minority and we should remember this sometimes. It's the families, the kids and getting them to see the wonderful world of aviation and our military services, that are really important at Air shows. 

When I really took this in, when I watched my daughter and wife in awe of the RAF Typhoon display, I sighed with relief that I haven't become a fixed avgeek junky and I felt so much more grounded by the experience. You look around at some of those so called avgeeks at air shows, I am sad to say that some of them are unlikeable. Pushing to the front, blocking everyone else with their constant tubes pointing to the air, blocking kids views.

I saw fascination in every display, I saw elements of displays I had missed before, chasing an interview somewhere. I just had a fabulous day.

We talked all the way home about how hard the pilots worked, how much effort the volunteers all put in and the amazing effort by the many visiting air forces from Denmark, Holland, Lithuania, Canada, USA, Germany, France, Belgium, Jordan and many others. We all went to bed happy and exhausted.

It was a short drive for us but still quite long as we live in a remote village in the south west of England, in what most describe as the beautiful county of Dorset.

Air Day Facebook and Twitter 

The next day still buzzing but with the garden chores to do, I set about them with vigor. 

Unfortunately just after lunch in the blazing heat, I stumbled and fell, the ladder broke and I had a badly injured leg. I won't go in to detail. However, severely injured laying in my front garden, floating in and out of consciousness my wife desperately needed assistance. The emergency telephone operator kept her talking and working on me, but it was clear we could not wait for the ambulance to arrive which would have been over 30 minutes. 

This is when my next aviation experience of the weekend occurred. Not one I would wish for but the arrival at the back of our garden of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. There's no time for detail so I will get to the point. Without their intervention there was the possibility of a bad outcome for my leg and of course me and my family. (I will do a feature on the role of emergency air services another time).

But my second lesson in aviation came from this and again it made me take stock. You see that aircraft (an MD 902 Explorer a temporary air frame being used by the service whilst their AW109 is on its annual), reminded me that aircraft are tools for us humans to use.

Yes, they can be recreational, fighting, lifting, carrying or in my case emergency tools, but nonetheless not really there for my entertainment. 

Again, not many receiving this service really are avgeeks like us. 

So, I remembered that those air frames we all drool over, we photograph, we examine, we talk about, we analyse are actually there for a purpose. In my case life changing and in many cases life saving.

So, a rather interesting weekend last week, but for me personally I have re connected with aviation with a different view of it. 

I still love them and still have the passion. But I recognise most people in the world do not share this. I also recognise that they have a role, a role in this world we must always be aware of, grateful for and considerate of. 

I went though a potentially life changing experience last week and without that aircraft coming to my service, my life may have turned out differently. I am very grateful for our military, our emergency services and to all of those volunteers in the aviation industry. Beatrice played a role too. The doctor and paramedics realising my families stress got them to work and she held up two drips and for her services got a personal look around the MD 902 whilst I was moved sedately by ambulance to the ER. What wonderful people.

I have more cause than most to be grateful but never forget why we have our passion serviced. Take a few moments next time you are at an air show to take in what is around you, if that military aircraft flies overhead (they are probably not playing around) and if you see the emergency services in action, just think that they are probably on a life or death call.

Hear Pieter on his Across The Pond segment on the Airplane Geeks Podcast Episode 512 at 56:00mins

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