The Aviation Community

When I was first looking to get involved in aviation, someone described the aviation community as being like the horse community – everyone knows someone, and they’re tight knit.

I’ve been in clubs before – my mother put me in Job’s Daughters when I was a teen, and that was really good for me – it was a safe place, where people accepted me the way I was. But the sense of community I’ve suddenly felt getting involved in the Springfield Flying Club, and local RAA, flying C-FLUG makes me see that the sense of community I got from Job’s Daughters was manufactured.

I’ve read a lot about tribal societies, and how it’s not natural for people to live in cities where they see people they don’t know every day. It’s overwhelming and unhealthy for us, and there’s theories that living this way could be contributing to many psychological disorders. That the lack of that tribal group community feeling is something we need in order to be healthy. It puts a lot of stress on nuclear families – mother and father are expected to be everything one another needs, plus everything their children need. Clubs like Scouts or Guides or Job’s Daughters are substitutes for that, and they’re generally for certain age groups.

Now that I’ve been involved in C-FLUG, I’m really amazed at the amount of effort that the local community has put into getting that plane in the air, and they’re doing it specifically for women who otherwise would be paying $150 an hour to fly something. Here, we’re paying $20, plus fuel – which is probably another $20-$30 an hour, something like that. That’s a huge thing they’re doing for us. But also, seeing how many people have been involved, without whom, we either just couldn’t do it, or us C-FLUG pilots would be paying more, because they’ve volunteered their time, and donated parts and equipment.

It’s wasn’t a call to the general public that got this happening. It’s that tight knit community of Lyncrest airport, and people who fly into and out of it. They’re a community in a truer sense of the word than I’ve ever seen before in real life. There’s the older generation, with their wealth of experience, and they’re more than happy to share their knowledge and their stories. And then there’s the new generation, the younger ones, still learning, or with licences but building experience.

And the welcome…I mean, my Dad can say that well of course the people at Harv’s are going to be positive and welcoming to me – I’m paying them.  But that doesn’t apply here. There’s a lot of older men in this community, and you’d think women wouldn’t feel welcomed, but seriously, I have met no one, male or female, who was a pilot, who didn’t think it was awesome that I wanted to fly. Not one who sounded skeptical of my abilities. It’s like this huge chorus of “come, come be one of us, it’s awesome!” And “Oh, you’re interested in (X)? You should talk to so-and-so, he knows stuff about that/has one of those he might let you fly.”

Community built around a thing. And there’s official groups – there’s a Women in Aviation Chapter, a chapter of the Ninety-Nines, local chapter of the RAA, the Springfield Flying Club, sure. But I don’t get a sense that there are any real lines drawn between any of those groups. I’m currently now a member of all of them, for that matter.

It’s kind of cool to be in a room full of people and not be the one crazy person who thinks flying is the most awesome thing in the world. And to be around people with whom I can talk about things like carb heat and carb ice, an the never ending crosswind argument over crabbing versus side-slipping, and how taildraggers are just cooler than tricycle gear aircraft in every way. (It seems every pilot who has ever learned how to fly a taildragger will tell you that.) But there always seems to be pilots hanging around in the clubhouse, and they’re never too busy to chat about aeroplanes, and so many of them have far more experience than me. It’s a huge resource – people I can go to if I’m uncertain about the weather, or have questions, or if something doesn’t sound right in the plane. Or who I could potentially ask to act as flight watch for me – someone on the ground who knows I’m out flying and knows what time to expect me back, who’ll take action if I don’t show up. The experienced community members look after the fledgling pilots, and they’d much rather have those pilots part of a supportive, safety conscious community than stuck on their own.

It’s amazing. And I don’t say that lightly. I think “amazing” is a bit of a melodramatic word, so I don’t like to use it unless there’s no other way to put it. Definitely something I’ve never experienced before, and it inspires me to want to get to a point where I can help others along who come after me, the way that so many people have helped me.

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