Our Living Libraries
November 1, 2020
Charlie Seitz was my primary flight instructor in Wichita, Kansas, long, long ago. He taught me many long-lasting lessons, not the least of which was to get recurrent training from a flight instructor once a year. With this in mind I have made it a habit of doing two days of flight instruction each year in the early Fall…just before the weather tends to make instrument flight more likely. I am able to get a fresh biennial flight review and an instrument proficiency check and brush off the cob webs on a variety of topics.
Steve Thibault, one of our founding board members, has been kind enough to be my flight instructor for several years and works to impart a small amount of his knowledge with me.
A week ago I received training from Steve and at lunch we were talking about how much knowledge our more senior pilots have and how beneficial it is to listen to their stories and to glean tidbits from them which is often important for improving our flying skills. He offered a quotation to me that is quite poignant… “When an older airman heads West a valuable library is lost.” How true this is!
This quotation brings to mind my personal sadness at losing my grandparents, then my parents, and with their passing was the regret that I hadn’t been better at listening to their stories. My grandparents were alive when the Wright brothers made their flights, when Lindbergh made his famous flight. They worked the Kansas farmland with horses while aviators were taking flight, while Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech and Floyd Stearman were designing airplanes less than 30 miles away. I think of many questions that I wish I had asked of them.
Last evening I had the distinct pleasure of having dinner with a number of seasoned aviators and I must say that it is always a treat to do so. I am humbled by the fact that while I am approaching the age of being considered “seasoned,” there are many people who have “slipped the surly bonds of earth” far many more times than have I…and I appreciate the chance to hear about their experiences.
It is my hope that we can inspire young, and not-so-young, people to take advantage of the living libraries that they have available to them. I would encourage them to be good listeners and to develop the ability to bask in the warmth of the aviation stories that come forth when sitting down with a seasoned aviator.
One of the casualties of the current infectious disease has been the difficulty of gaining access to those of us who are elderly. It is surely more difficult to gain the full effect of aviation stories from these seasoned aviators, but it is still possible. The requisite mask is not really the problem, but rather our willingness to make the time to cross paths with these pilots. I would encourage you to take time to do so, while these libraries are still living.