AOPA Project Pilot provides members with the tools to find viable flight-training candidates and support them as student pilots with the wisdom and encouragement of experienced pilots through mentoring. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete his or her training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. You don't have to be a CFI to participate. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help a student along.
Before my grandfather flew across the Atlantic in 1927, people who flew in airplanes were called "barnstormers," "daredevils," and "flying fools." After my grandfather landed in Paris, people who flew in airplanes were called "pilots" and "passengers"! That single flight showed to the world the tremendous commercial potential of aviation. Although he was spurred by the incentive of winning the $25,000 Orteig Prize, my grandfather wrote that his true motivation for the flight was to showcase the commercial viability of his chosen profession. It worked!
Last week a longtime friend of the family, Ev Cassagneres, sent me his new book Ambassador of Air Travel: The Untold Story of Lindbergh's 1927-1928 Good Will Tours. In reading through this amazing book about my grandfather's flights in the Spirit of St. Louis spanning 22,000 miles in three months to 48 states and 97 cities to promote aviation, I was struck by this passage, "The Daniel Guggenheim Fund never did a finer thing for civil aviation and air travel than when it arranged and financed Lindbergh's 'evangelical' U.S. Tour. It was a remarkable demonstration of efficiency, dependability, and safety of the airplane that was to break through the longtime public apathy and open the mind of the average citizen and politician to the possibilities of traveling by airplane." This latter part sounds a bit like the present-day efforts of AOPA and the AOPA Project Pilot program (see " AOPA Project Pilot: A Community of Flying," page 108). Did you know that within a year of my grandfather's New York-to-Paris flight, 25 percent of all Americans alive had seen either him or the Spirit of St. Louis in person? U.S. pilot applications tripled and airplanes licensed in the United States quadrupled. What a problem to have — too many airplanes, not enough pilots!
What can we do to keep aviation vibrant as we head into the next century? Although I am planning a new aviation adventure, it's unlikely any one of us can have the same impact on general aviation as my grandfather did. It's going to take all of us. We need pilots like you to make a concerted effort to preach the gospel of aviation — be a Mentor, find a student, light the fire, and pass the juice to someone who will find his or her own wings and fly into the future.
Cassagneres' book has extraordinary details about all the stops my grandfather made in the 48 continental states and includes rare photos and interesting quotes. I will leave you with the sentiment of a Mexican aviator in a toast given at dinner during his visit south of the border: "We are all citizens of this immense country called sky." Through sharing your excitement, stories, and books like this one, we can expand our citizenship of the sky.
Ev Cassagneres has generously agreed to personalize copies of his book. Order them from him at 203/272-2127.
We welcome your photos. Although we can't guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to [email protected] or call 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672). For more information or to nominate someone for AOPA Project Pilot, please go to the Web site.