Committee Corner
News from ALPA's Committees

Aviation's Annual Migration

Education Committee

By Gary DiNunno, Editor-in-Chief
Air Line Pilot,
October 2004, p.24

As July approaches and the weather becomes hotter and more humid, motivation and momentum languish. Most things alive want to slow down--to rest. Pilots, however, begin to feel the pull--the urge to migrate to their summer feeding grounds in Oshkosh, Wisc.

The pilots come from every direction. Some travel from near, while others come vast distances across mountain ranges and even oceans.

Many have been to the site before. You can tell the veterans from their plumage--multi-colored markings point to numerous migrations from years past--from their calls to each other, and from their need to expound upon colorful flying stories laced with a few facts.

Others are newcomers who must quickly learn the best nesting and feeding areas. The veterans teach their children, who then teach their children, who then pass that knowledge along to succeeding generations. And so, every year, the species is renewed.

The next century of flight was cause for celebration July 27 through August 2 during the annual EAA convention and airshow in Oshkosh. Some 700,000 aficionados enjoyed displays of aviation’s past, present, and future. And ALPA’s Education Committee ensured that the union’s presence in this world of aviation was recognized.

More than 10,000 aircraft of all shapes and sizes and from numerous countries landed on EAA’s Wittman Field, including some 2,500 show planes that were flown in to be judged for their style, class, and qualities in 11 contest categories.

Seemingly, everything that has some connection to aviation was there in Oshkosh. Everyone who participates in aviation was represented, as if to say, "This is my universe. This is where I want to be."

ALPA Education Committee volunteers staffed the union’s booth--staking a claim for Association members, saying that airline pilots are part of this universe. ALPA members and officers talked to college students, military pilots, and airline pilots about the airline pilot profession--what it really means to be flying the line, what qualifications and ratings a pilot needs to be hired at an airline, and what the work is like.

ALPA members who worked in the Association’s booth this year included Capts. Paul Rice, vice-president-administration/secretary; Bernie Sanders (Alaska), ALPA Human Performance Committee chairman; J.C. Lawson (Comair), MEC chairman; Ray Belz (US Airways); John Feldvary (US Airways); Terry Fenningham (Independence); Chris Schaich (Mesaba); Mitchell Serber (Comair); and Jim Young (Delta); and First Officers Terry Anderson (Independence) and Kari Degurse (Mesaba).

The theme for this year’s event was to launch into the next century of flight, and the enthusiasts who attended the show were provided "glimpses" of that as well as aviation’s present and past.

NASA engineers who, last March, successfully operated an experimental, unpiloted scramjet vehicle, the X-43A, over the Pacific Ocean at Mach 7, discussed their feat with EAA AirVenture visitors. The X-43A flight beat the record of Mach 6.7 set in the rocket-powered X-15 in 1967. The NASA engineers programmed the aircraft to plunge into the ocean at the end of its run. NASA has approved a final X-43A vehicle for an attempt to reach Mach 10 before the end of this year.

Landing with no brakes and a tail skid, a restored 1918 Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, in U.S. Navy livery, requires a grass airstrip, so EAA controllers directed the airplane to the ultralight airfield. Randy Dufault, reporting in AirVenture Today, wrote that "much of the wood and virtually all of the fittings in the airplane are original."

According to the airplane’s owner, Frank Schelling, the wood in the four wing panels is new, but the struts are original. The tail feathers, except for the vertical fin, are original. All the instruments are original. The restoration took about 31 years, and the rebuilt aircraft returned to the air on May 15, 2003.

AeroShell Square is center stage for EAA’s static aircraft display. This expanse of concrete holds military, vintage, classic, and airline aircraft that require special notice and attention from the show’s visitors.

This year a C-5 Galaxy parked on the square, opening its jaws to welcome anyone who wished to survive a Jonah-like experience. Other aircraft included a C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" used to transport U.S. prisoners of war home during the Vietnam War; a Lockheed Super Constellation, which the Save-a-Connie group restored; a Harrier jump jet; other military aircraft including an F-15, an F-16, a T-37, and an A-10; an orange-and-silver DC-3--part of the Commemorative Air Force fleet--with Capt. Clif Walker (Northwest, Ret.) as part of the crew.

Also on display were a B-17, an SBD Dauntless, and a Grumman Hellcat. Unlimited racers--the fastest piston aircraft in the world--sat in the sun when they were not performing mock pylon air races at full throttle.

As part of the EAA’s celebration of warbirds, Capt. Feldvary flew his World War II T-6 Texan in formation during the airshow.

When shopping for aircraft parts, engines, watching aerobatic shows, or examining static displays becomes over-stimulating, EAA visitors can catch their breath during the day and evening as renowned aviation speakers appear in the Theater in the Woods. Among this year’s speakers were Capt. Al Haynes (United, Ret.), who shared his experience as the pilot-in-command of United Flight 232, a DC-10 that crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989 and had 184 survivors. Chuck Yeager, Cliff Robertson, and Harrison Ford discussed the future of EAA’s Young Eagle program. Col. Paul Tibbets discussed his experience as the pilot of Enola Gay. Sponsors of the Ansari X prize, to be awarded to anyone who is first to achieve privately sponsored Earth-orbital flight, discussed their project. Recent successful trials of Burt Rutan’s personal orbiter, SpaceShipOne, have generated public interest in attempts to achieve this milestone.

Currently, the 2005 AirVenture is scheduled for July 26–August 1.