October 4, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Whatever happened to “leather-jacket aviation”?
Flight instructor Radek Wyrzykowski thinks he knows where it went. He hopes that a new general-aviation Internet talk show of which he is co-host will help bring it back.
“People are disappearing,” he said.
Where did they go?
They are locked down at computer screens, chatting and trading photos with their “thousands” of friends on Facebook and social networks. Another factor eroding the culture of aviation, as he sees it, is that GA nowadays seems more focused on transportation than fun. Going to the airport, he says, is like going to a doctor’s office.
“General aviation used to be about, among other things, the pleasure of being up in the air. A residual benefit was going to other places,” he said.
If technology helped take the humans away, Wyrzykowski wants to use technology to get them back.
Combining old and new ways of reaching out through mass media, on Oct. 5, the Norwood, Mass.-based instructor and co-host Jon King Roberts, a pilot, musician, and entertainer, were scheduled to launch their new hour-long radio show, WIMC-DB’s “Plane Talk,” at 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It will be available for listening on the website of IMC Club, a membership-based nonprofit organization that focuses on the instrument-rated pilot.
“The whole idea is to inject some humor and talk about serious stuff at the same time,” he said.
Not just for the IFR set, the show, soon to be accessible via Facebook, iPhone and iPad apps, podcasts—and someday, even over the radio—is for anyone interested in flying. There’s something for the veteran IFR pilots, but there’s also something for the listener who wants to fly but always assumed that too many barriers stand in the way.
News flash: They don’t.
The two hosts, who also team up for a television program on a Boston-area access channel, come at their subjects from different perspectives , with Wyrzykowski’s 5,000-hour instructor outlook offset by Roberts’ vantage point as a private pilot.
The show has already aired a … well … a pilot program.
With a flare of cymbals and a blare of trumpets, a half-hour call-in edition of the show aired on the website Sept. 28. Callers weighed in with views on the “See something, say something” approach to airport security awareness, and other issues. (The first caller, a nonpilot whose husband had just earned his certificate, wanted to know which phase of flight the hosts consider most critical.)
The trial run helped the hosts work through some technological bugs evidenced in the background by the unmistakable (and slightly slapstick) Skype sound effect of phone calls coming and going sometimes a bit prematurely. Still, it was obvious that everyone had a good time.
The show’s producers say their program is the only live talk show exclusively dedicated to GA and the community of pilots. Experts and aviation celebrities will appear remotely as guests, and will answer questions.
When Wyrzykowski learned to fly, he couldn’t wait to get to the airport, sometimes arriving two hours early to socialize and soak up aviation ambience. It was “a big part of the whole culture.”
Too often nowadays, he said, the presentation is more like a visit to a doctor’s office: You show up, you spend time with your instructor, you pay, you leave.
He wants to redeem those social aspects, the part he calls leather-jacket aviation, and he hopes the radio show will be “a vehicle for bringing people back.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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