Friday, February 20, 2009


I could certainly go on about my own involvement in aviation in this post, and about trying to figure out where it fits in my life (then again, it may never "fit" in the traditional sense of the word). But, you already get enough of that, so I'll save it for another day when I'm feeling inspired.

Today, actually, I stopped to think a lot about this project and where it's headed versus where I'd like it to go. So, I've decided to reveal the grand master plan. Initially I thought I would just let this blog build its own momentum, but I think that for people to get excited about something, it must become tangible to them. With that in mind, I'm going to try to make my project (which is really our project) tangible to those of you kind enough to spend a few minutes on my ramblings.

The tagline for A Flying Story is "A dialogue about youth involvement in aviation," mainly because I couldn't think of a better way to sum it up in a line. While it is mostly focused on youth, it is also aimed at increasing all involvement in aviation through the support and cultivation of that passion.

The idea is to motivate individuals (like you!) and local organizations (EAA/VAA/IAC/WOA/AAA chapters, clubs) to become more active in recruiting youth by hopefully helping you see new ways to approach youth. I want to get more of those informational articles up soon, but I feel that that's really a small part of it. Anyone can read a how-to article and follow the steps. What I really want to see is passion. I know it's there! Sometimes, though, it just doesn't translate well to youth because aviation is something foreign to them--and I think that passion is foreign to them as well. In my high school, I was often thought of as "weird" because I was so interested in aviation, and my peers seemed to go to great lengths to make sure they were only enthusiastic about approved topics.

I'd love to get the support of aviation organizations (EAA/AAA/AOPA/etc) in spreading this message and reforming the methods we use to get new people involved in aviation. To make it truly tangible, I want to fly across the United States and help local organizations get involved in their communities. I feel that it would be a wonderful way for such a project to come to fruition, as well as a symbol of the fact that large international organizations work for their chapters and members.

Additionally, I'd like to film the whole thing and turn it into a two-part DVD about the passion of flying/why we fly and how to become more active in the community.

Hopefully, those of you reading this will pass it along to others who feel the same way. Chapters and local organizations have my permission to print these little ramblings of mine with credit to me (Amy Gesch). That's all I ask--but I hope you'll send me feedback and let me know where you're from and where it's getting published.

But maybe that's just crazy to think all of that could happen. Yet, I know I won't be able to forgive myself in the future if I don't try. So, here goes nothing . . . and everything.


Running in the Snow

I finally did it! After over a year's hiatus from running, I finally hauled myself outside to go run around the block. I knew I needed to; I'm not nearly as fit as I used to be, and sitting around lamenting that fact wasn't going to fix a thing. Someone came into my room and announced it was snowing. Sure enough, I looked outside and saw the white stuff accumulating. Ugh.

I still went. I knew if I used the snow as a reason not to go, I'd only be lying to myself. I used to run in the rain, sleet, snow, and subzero temperatures. I knew it could be done safely. As such, I knew if I didn't go, it wouldn't be because of inclement weather. It would be because I was too lazy.

With that in mind, I headed out. iPod on shuffle and decked out for the weather, I couldn't help but smile. It seemed pretty stupid, going out to run when just enough snow had accumulated to make things slippery. It seemed pretty stupid, heading outside to get pelted with snow that got in my eyes and made my makeup run. It seemed pretty stupid, braving the sidewalks when a brand-new, indoor rec center resided just across campus.

But it was wonderful. In all of its senselessness, it was great. I was outside, snow flying into my face, wind making me squint, and I felt alive! It reminded me a lot of flying. How many runners are out there? Millions, and not all of them run because that's how they keep those winter pounds off. People love running, bicycling, and kayaking, and some days I'd wager that's crazier than flying.

The streets I ran along are familiar to me, but I saw them differently today. Who lived in those apartments? What were they like? Who was that guy in the orange Mustang that clearly couldn't drive in the snow? Where was he from? Whose genius idea was it to make sidewalk paint so slippery? And who put those deathly metal plates on the sidewalk ramps?

I had time to notice details instead of blazing by in my car, fumbling with the radio and reading directions. It's sort of like the difference between hearing and listening. There's observing and seeing, really seeing. I was alone, left to see the world around me and revel at the wonder in the ordinary, yet I was never alone. On my final leg back to the dorm, I crossed paths with two other runners headed the opposite direction. We shared a brief knowing smile as we passed.

I wasn't alone. I was in the company of kindred spirits.

Just like I'm never alone flying, even if I'm up solo. I'm surrounded by thousands of others for whom the sky was home, past, present, and future. I can imagine the exotic nature of flying back when the Cub I'm flying was new, the excitement surrounding private aviation and the thrill of taking flight for the first time after never knowing it was possible for you. I know fellow students and their passion for flying. I've seen them watching each airplane take off and land, leaving a small piece of themselves at the airport even when they're not physically present. I see the children and young adults looking skyward as an airplane passes overhead. I see their eyes light up and their faces become animated as they think to themselves, "Someday, someday . . ."

I love that.

I love knowing I can be alone, and yet also have the support of an entire global community. There's not really a suitable word for that level of cool. It's because of this that I'm trying, whether successfully or not, to help that community become more effective in welcoming in new members.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Boots on the Ground

It turns out to write about aviation, you should have aviation experiences. Quite frankly, I've had a recent dearth of said experiences and am drawing on new things to attempt to entertain the flying world at large.

Saturday, as part of my airport management class, I went on a tour of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport (yes, I toured an airport on Valentine's Day, but that was not my doing). It really is an amazing place, but it felt devoid of emotion, or at least the grassroots sort of emotion that I'm partial to. It is not there for recreation, but instead for business, and it is a city in its own right, with a fire department, an army of snow removers, and a "Main Street" full of restaurants and stores in the terminal.

I thought of the snow removal and heavy equipment teams. They took pride in their job but they didn't do it because they loved aviation. Their passions and motivations lay elsewhere, perhaps in the inner workings of heavy machinery.

I thought of the firefighters on staff. They enjoyed their jobs, believed in what they were doing, but they did not do it out of love for flying.

I'm not trying to discount the lifestyles, passions, and dreams of the non-flying workers that make the airport operational. They are certainly necessary and integral to the airport's success.

Ah, success. As defined by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), "success" means a satisfactory cash flow. While the MAC is not a profit-earning organization, they do things very thoughtfully, with careful attention to financial outlay and return. Having laid the groundwork for hangars at a nearby GA airport, they have not moved to allow building yet, because they do not yet think it is fiscally responsible, despite numerous requests from aviators to allow building. In short, the MAC, while running some very nice airports, does nothing simply for the good of general aviation. In fact, some might say that they actually hinder it, with their dutiful adherence to stringent security regulations and corporation-style management.

I'm not trying to undermine the MAC's management of the metropolitan airports under its control. From what I've seen, they do an excellent job of maintaining clean and modern airports. However, they do not promote the future of aviation very well on a grassroots level.

But that's because that's not really their job, and they're not in a position to be very good at such a task. MAC makes the airport structure, you make the airport community. MAC's goals need to make sense, yours don't.

You, as an aviation enthusiast, are the "boots on the ground." You are the one that can make an individual difference. While the involvement of large aviation organizations is wonderful and laudable, they cannot influence people like a personal connection or mentor.

Remember, the only fences around airports are the ones which contain us and keep us from sharing our love of flying with others. Even a fenced airport can have an active aviation outreach effort with the dedication and involvement of airport community members. I suppose I just don't want a simple chain-link fence to be the reason someone doesn't get involved in aviation. I know that we, as a global aviation community, have many challenges facing us, but I also know that just one person can make a difference in the life of another.

Don't forget--life doesn't have to make sense. That's why we have hobbies : )


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Other Side

Sorry about the delay between posts . . . it was a busy weekend! 5.0 hours of cross-country PIC time (I do have great friends), a new haircut, and some time with my pooch, plus a nightmarish experience trying to get back here. But, needless to say, I'm back in Mankato, safe, sound, and snug.

On to other things.

Steve won't be getting a Christmas present this year. He made me fly to Oshkosh so I could get some tower work in. I admit, it was good for me, and certainly not busy, but I'm inexperienced and chicken nonetheless. So boo on Steve. But thanks to Todd who lets me fly his Luscombe and doesn't complain when I bounce it ; )

As we circuited the dark, lonely pattern time after time, I started to wonder about the man behind the instructions to make left traffic and the clearances to land. What was he like? Did he like his job? Was he having a bad day? He hadn't responded when I thanked him and told him to have a nice day, despite the fact that we were the only airplane under his control. Moreover, I wonder if he could tell how many times I bounced on several approaches . . .

Landing grades aside, my curiosity led to more pondering on the flight back home. There are plenty of people we interact with on a daily basis, perhaps even quite regularly, but do we really know them?

I thought of the FBO employee at Oshkosh who let us in to use the restrooms even though it was after hours and we weren't buying fuel. Why did he choose to work there? What were his aviation goals, if any? (Did he watch my bouncy landings??)

What about the kid that begs his parents to stop by the airport, to pull over, slow down when there is an airplane taking off? Will he ever achieve his dream of flight?

What about the other aviation students I attend class with? What do they want out of this program and this industry?

I often wonder about the state of people's lives. How did they get here, wherever "here" may be? Are they happy? Is this their dream, or just a way to pay the rent? What were they like in their younger days? What impression did they form of me in our brief encounters?

The last question is likely the most important. What effect have I had on the lives of those around me? When I say "Have a nice day," I truly mean it, but do others sense that? Does it maybe, just maybe, make them smile a bit or feel more positive? Have I made a positive imprint on some one else's life?

All this wondering brings me back to the kid at the airport fence. I want to know what will become of him, if his passion for aviation will endure and blossom or if it will wilt in the forbidding environment of today. I want to know if he will forget his dreams or push them aside without encouragement or simply because it is easier. And I want to know how I can help him aim for the stars and fly.

I guess what I'm saying is that what drives me to keep spewing out my thoughts here is the continual pursuit of ways to help others--ways to "pay it forward." I recall an instance here at school where someone said "I wish I knew all the people you knew," and "I don't know the kind of people you know." I know I was incredibly lucky to meet the people I did that helped me out so much while I was learning to fly and as I work to continue my aviation education (and outreach, hopefully). I know that it is through no skill or qualification of my own that these people stepped forward to help me. They simply extended a helping hand to someone who showed a little interest, ensuring that I wouldn't be one who lost hope or gave up on that dream.

For that reason, I want to help others. I'm more than willing to help those who show an interest, and I have a standing offer with the student who wished he knew who I knew that I'll introduce him to everyone I know or get him in touch with them. I also have standing offers that I'll gladly take anyone Cub flying who hasn't been before, even if it means I have to beg and scrap (but not steal) to do it, because I want so much for others to feel the passion that I do for the wide world of aviation. While I am eternally grateful for the help that I received, I know that I can never truly pay back the gifts that my supporters gave me. The only way to do them justice is to share what they have given me.

Remember when you were on "the other side." Remember those who mentored you and helped you along the way.

And now, live in the present. Pay it forward. Be a mentor to the aviators of tomorrow--before the faces on the other side of the fence disappear.

How will you be remembered?

Friday, February 6, 2009

P.S. P.S.

I could really use some feedback from those of you who are reading this! Some general things I'm wondering about are the following:

~What do you think of the content?
~Of the writing quality?
~How interesting is blog to you?
~What other ways do you recommend for reaching out to youth and involving them in aviation?

You can click the "Comments" link after each post, or email them to me at aflyingstory AT

Thanks! : )

Do 1 Thing


Along my drive home from school last night (another one of these wacky trips for a skiplane fly-in, but with a hair cut, too!) I stopped at a truck stop in Tomah, Wisconsin. I gathered my trash and grabbed my purse to head inside, and as I walked inside a man asked me if perhaps I could spare a few dollars to help him and his sister get to Minnesota. The only cash I carry is a single dollar that, for a long time, was the only money I had, and I venture to say it has sentimental value now. I explained that I was a college student and really didn't have any money on my person. He was understanding and shrugged it off, continuing to wait outside in the dark and cold.

I pondered these events while I was inside the building. When I had pulled up to the truck stop, I paused my iPod, ended my phone call on my Bluetooth headset, and put my brand-new phone into my purse. To say that I don't have anything of material value is certainly a lie. Granted, the iPod was a gift, as was the Bluetooth headset, and my mom had bought the new phone when she signed a new contract. Yet, I couldn't shake the image of the man waiting patiently for a good Samaritan, his sister sitting in the cold car. I was reminded of a social project entitled "Do 1 Thing." Its purpose is to raise awareness about homelessness through photos taken by participating photographers.

"Do 1 Thing" stuck with me. For all I knew, the man and his sister were collecting cash when in reality they had more than they let on. But again, maybe they were driving to Minnesota for a new chance at life, perhaps their only chance. I'll never know. But it struck me that too often we question people's motives to death. I decided that if he was still outside when I checked out, I would head back in and pull some money out for him, even if it was only $10 or so.

He wasn't there when I walked out.

I looked around for the car, hoping they had managed to move on, wondering if they had given up.

I never saw the car again.

Who knows where they ended up--I can only hope it was in a better place and situation than they were leaving.

The experience certainly got me to think for quite a while. I was initially skeptical of the man and his motives, but why? Why must we be so skeptical, instead of generous enough to offer a helping hand? Why are we no longer capable of basic trust? Why do we refuse to extend a helping hand without documentation of one's situation and motivation?

I pondered as I wheeled on towards my warm home with its wireless internet and cable TV, evaluating myself. You see, people have taken chances on me. I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of several scholarships, given to me with the hopes that I would do something worthwhile with the opportunities afforded by the money. The donors had no way to know what I could turn out to be, only a faith that it would be something worthy of their gift. Yet, in today's society, we are taught to be suspicious and untrusting, and I saw that reality to be ingrained in my own personality.

And I resented it last night.

That why I'd like to invite the members of the aviation community to take note. You never know what your gift of flight can do, or where it may lead. But, if you never take the chance to offer that gift up, you're guaranteed to never see the payoff.

There are many youths out there to whom aviation and flight is nothing but a faraway fairytale thought. To those of us lucky enough to experience it, it is a beautiful reality that has likely shaped our personality in one way or another. Give them a chance to see what we see, and then put it within their reach. Extend your offers to those who otherwise never would have dreamed of flight, never
could have dreamed of flight, and take a chance or two.

Do 1 thing: Give wings. Give fascination. Give passion. Give dreams.

You may just regret it forever if you don't.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dreams and Goals

Well first of all, what's the difference between a goal and a dream? I think my goals and dreams tend to blend together. If I work to make a dream real, I think that turns it into a goal, something attainable.

So here's a brief list of aviation-related things I want to do before I kick the bucket (which is hopefully a ways off still):

~Fly a DC-3, turbine or not (or both, I'll do it twice!)
~Spend a summer, at least, flying in Alaska (maybe instructing)
~Fly a J-2
~Fly a J-5
~Take the members of my family Cubbing
~Take a loooooong cross-country, like literally across the country, in a Cub
~Learn all those cool tailwheel tricks, like taxiing with the tail up, and lifting the tail at a standstill before taking off
~Get my seaplane rating in a J-3
~Fly a Cub on skis
~Fly a Savage Cruiser (and if I can set terms, that adorable red-and-white one)
~Fly a Howard DGA-15
~And a Staggerwing
~And a Stinson Reliant
~And a Waco (not picky, but I like the purple-and-blue one that was in AOPA's magazine a few months ago)
~And a Byrd
~And a Stearman
~And a Meyers OTW
~"Race" a Cubby in the AirVenture Cup Race, just for kicks
~Help someone fall in love with flying and achieve their dream

And a variety of other stuff. Like flying a 195. I could go on. But hopefully this list will give you a better idea of what kind of person I am, and the sort of flying I would someday love to do. I know most of this will likely never happen, but I'm still inclined to try : )

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A New Generation and New Challenges

Today I have a slight rant, if you'll be so kind as to indulge me.

I'm sick of my generation being called lazy and apathetic.

I mention this because I recently read a post on a forum about getting youth involved in aviation. It reads as follows:

"The challenges we face today in getting the young to be involved with aviation is a daunting one. It’s hard enough to get them to put down their mobile phones and stop texting long enough to see the value in it. With XBOX 360 and Nintendo Wii we have even greater challenges. When we were young there was not a whole lot to do besides play outside and build model planes. We spent our summers fishing and playing cowboys and Indians. Attending an air show was a great thrill to us. The young people today have so many distractions that interesting them in a, difficult, expensive but worthwhile activity, such as flying is daunting. As a web community of pilots the burden falls on us to find the solution. Many of us could say we love the idea but do not have the time for it. We must make time if we are going to win the war against useless pursuits such as mentioned above. Being a pilot in of itself is a great self esteem builder. Many of our young people are lead down the rocky path of alcohol and drugs because of this. Teen pregnancy is becoming epidemic. These youth need something in their lives that they are not getting from society. Remember when you earned your wings? Was it not one of the greatest accomplishments of your life? Lets find a way to bring these lost youths into aviation."

Lost youths? Ouch.

If I make firstly make a mildly ironic point: The video games and cell phone technology which is blamed for making my generation antisocial and lazy has its roots in generations before us--often the ones accusing us of being lazy. Just saying.

The call to action above, while admirable, is somewhat offensive to me, as a youth. My generation is made to sound diseased, afflicted by video games, cell phones, and sex (and teen pregnancies, don't get me started on how we think telling kids to practice abstinence, while giving them no tools to protect themselves, will work).

I'm here to tell you we're not that way. In terms of extracurricular activities and advanced academic classes, we're way more active than generations past. I myself was laden down with Academic Decathlon, National Honor Society, yearbook, and FIRST robotics throughout my high school years, all while maintaining a full course load and taking several college-level classes. That's far more than either of my parents were ever involved in. Many researchers consider my generation to be the overscheduled generation, with piano lessons, softball, baseball, yearbook, and a myriad of other activities occupying our time.

This is not to say that my way is better or that a past generation's method of living was better. That is an argument that has been going on for ages, and will continue for many more years. I'll leave you to contemplate that.

Personally, I prefer a mix of several influences. I am active in extracurricular activities here at college as well (after all, surveys and research indicate that this is the first thing employers look at on an application), but I'm sure to take time for myself and get outside as well. I stay in touch with my friends via email, FaceBook, and text messaging, but I also write letters, make phone calls, and visit. I spend too much time on the computer and at the airport. Peculiar, perhaps, but what can I say?

When I hear my generation identified as lazy and occasionally useless, yes, I'm offended. It puts me on the defensive immediately. If the youth of today are continually defending their lifestyle, then they're closed off to new ideas, mainly because they think the people trying to show them new things are looking down on them.

I'm not saying that my generation is perfect and that the amount of time we spend on electronic devices is good or healthy. However, we must admit that the world has changed. We no longer live in a social climate where kids can bike to the airport, due to "security" measures or parental oversight. There are certainly exceptions to every rule, but by and large this statement is accurate.

Yet, instead of adapting to this new environment, we sit back and simply wonder where the youth are. Despite the fact that they have no "in," or any exposure to general aviation, we expect them to come to the airport anyways. It's about as logical as assuming a kid who lives in an atheist family will pick up a Bible one day and decide he's going to pour himself into Christianity.

Unlike generations of the past, aviation is not part of popular culture. Others--including you, older generations--have taught the children of today that video games are the best form of entertainment and that computers are fascinating machines to spend days upon. We do not have Sky King or any other aviation TV show. About the closest thing I had to an aviation-related show was a cartoon with Wonder Woman and the Invisible Jet. Many small airports have withered and died, leaving youths without that mythical place to escape to, where the sky is no longer simply a tapestry hung over their heads. And why have these airports dried up? Because we are not getting the youth involved! (And then we're blaming them because they didn't get involved)

Seeds must be planted and cultivated for an interest in aviation to grow. I suppose I could be cliche and say that those that are meant to fly will do so eventually, but I'm not sure if that's really true, and perhaps that should frighten you just a little bit. If you don't present aviation to this young generation, who will?

One of the best parts about being a young person involved in aviation is the mentoring that goes along with it. Start by visiting local schools and present a current, interesting aspect of aviation. You must somehow differentiate your efforts from those of teachers, or else you're just another person standing in front of the class with words spewing out of your mouth.

Continue cultivating a love and understanding of aviation. Personally invite kids to the airport and give them your contact info and mentor them throughout their involvement. Put them on your chapter newsletter email list; better yet, publish an e-newsletter specifically suited to them, highlighting scholarships and other opportunities.

There are still youths out there interested in aviation. There are even more that would fall in love with flying if only it were presented to them.