It would be an understatement to say that I was thrilled to be back at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 among all the wonderful people (and aircraft) that make up our aviation family. I’ve been making the annual pilgrimage from Massachusetts to Wisconsin since 1993, and my personal experience each year creates an “Oshkosh theme” for each show. There was the year of the very light jet, the year of light sport aircraft, the year of the autopilot, and the year of ADS-B, for example. For me, this was the year of education.
From forums to exhibitor booths, type club tents, and casual discussions beside the aircraft, the opportunities to learn about aircraft operation and maintenance seemed endless. Jake, my oldest son and a newly minted A&P, learned about fixing a tailwheel shimmy and tips and tricks for annual inspections by attending the Cessna 120/140 forum. His brother, Ben, joined him for a hands-on class in composite structures. Together, we attended a class on turbo maintenance and operation, capping off the day at a presentation by our friend Bill Ross, from Superior Air Parts, on engine operation and maintenance at the American Bonanza Society tent.
What struck me above all was the attendance at these events. Most events were packed, standing room only, with pilots, aircraft owners, and mechanics. We’re used to hearing the phrase, “A good pilot is always learning.” The best mechanics and aircraft owners follow the same rule. Whether you just bought your first airplane or have a hangar full of aircraft, there’s no end to the knowledge you can gain from others. The same is true for mechanics. Having an A&P certificate is only a license to practice the art of aircraft maintenance—a license to learn. Seeing so much audience interaction at these lectures was inspiring, especially because so much of it was between pilots and mechanics…all learning together. The experience has me motivated to find new ways to keep this momentum going beyond this once-a-year event.
Despite the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to our community, it has also brought a few positives. One of those has been the explosive growth of online events and educational webinars. I’ve seen this directly through the event listings we catalog and email out through SocialFlight. Not a day goes by without multiple opportunities to choose among flying proficiency and aircraft maintenance—all from the comfort of your home. And now, with the return of many in-person events, we can move forward with the best of both worlds.
My mission from Oshkosh is to help inspire as many pilots, aircraft owners, and mechanics as possible to make it a priority to keep learning about your aircraft and how to maintain it. Visit the AOPA event calendar, check out the SocialFlight listings, attend a type club or EAA chapter meeting, attend a fly-in…whatever fits your schedule. The bottom line is that you challenge yourself to take advantage of these learning opportunities to improve the maintenance and safety of your aircraft. And, if you can, make the pilgrimage to EAA AirVenture in 2022 where we can meet up and learn some cool new maintenance tips together. Until next time, I hope you and your families remain safe and healthy and wish you blue skies.