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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

11 June 2010

Flying Across America

Over the years there have been many promotional-type of events in aviation. Usually they involve some sort of record-setting goal, like the infamous Jessica Dubroff. You might remember the big controversy over her. Back in 1996, Jessica was a seven year-old “student pilot.” Purportedly, she wanted to become the “youngest person to fly an airplane across the country.” Except she wasn’t…a pilot, that is. She had to have a licensed pilot along who was really the pilot-in-command, not Jessica. Sadly, not even two days into the flight, the airplane crashed in Wyoming after taking off in very bad weather. Everybody onboard was kiled, which included Jessica, her father, and the real pilot.

But not all such promotional endeavors end in tragedy. There is a book called
“Flight of Passage.” It tells the story of two brothers from New Jersey (one 15, and one 17) who flew a Piper Cub across the country to California and back in 1966. They did it just for the fun of it, not to set any records or become media darlings. Indeed, there was no internet back then (duh), and although their father tried hard to arrange media coverage along their route, it was spotty. The boys made the flight in relative anonymity.

The “Flight of Passage” brothers did not count on it, but they did receive generous help from people they met along the way – some who’d heard of their flight, but many who had not. Yet others in aviation were willing to help out, because that’s the kind of community we are.

Which brings us to Jason Schappert and Vince Lambercy. Jason is from central Florida and Vince is from Switzerland. They’re both bloggers. A casual online exchange between them sparked the idea of flying Jason’s Cessna 150 across the country because…well, just because. The idea grew into plans, and voila! their trip begins on June 19th from Dunellon, Florida (just west of Ocala).

Oh, there are “official” reasons for the trip, mostly centered around “promoting aviation” blah blah blah. And I'm certain they are sincere. They will undoubtedly send out press releases. And I’m sure they’ll meet with the media along the way and “talk up” how important general aviation (i.e. non-airline) flying is to the country. And don’t’ get me wrong, it is! General aviation needs as much good publicity as it can get. Usually the only time the American public hears anything at all about general aviation is after a small-plane crash. A small plane that took off without a flight plan! as if that is some heinous crime or is against the rules, which it is neither.

Granted, they’re not underage, unqualified kids out to set some bogus record, and they’re not handicapped or “special needs” people doing this for notoriety. Although it’s easier here in 2010 to fly a small plane from coast to coast, as opposed to 1966 when the two brothers from New Jersey did it, it is no piece of cake. It is still a challenge. There are many things that are still the same – like crossing the mountains between here and there. There are many things that can go wrong. It will most definitely be a grand adventure.

As a society, we’ve become so jaded about everything. We act as if hopping from one coast to the other in a 35 year-old airplane is just so mundane and routine…anybody can do it! Well, maybe. Maybe not.

N512R, the Cessna 150 that Jason and Vincent will use for their cross-country trip

Anyways, if Jason and Vince want to do a “P.R.” flight across the country and back, more power to them! But let’s face it, we know they’re basically just doing it for the challenge and the fun. And I’m okay with that. I’m in. In fact, I’m jealous as hell! See, I used to own a Cessna 150 just like Jason’s (okay, older and not as clean-looking). And how I wish I could have flown a trip like the one they’re about to embark on. I did fly it all over the south here, but never got to take it to California. It’s still a great, big, beautiful country full of decent, honest and good people, and I would have loved to see it from coast to coast at low altitude.

It turns out that the guys are stopping in nearby Destin, Florida on their way westbound, and actually stopping right here in Pensacola as they head back east. So I’m going to try to meet up with them, and support the trip in any way I can.

And they do need support, obviously. They have a website from which you can learn about them and their trip. And of course there are methods for “sponsoring” parts of it on a big or small scale. There’s a link at the top of this page that you can click on, and I’ll put another one at the end of this post.

I hope the guys make it, and I wish them well. They'll be blogging about the trip (of course) so we'll be able to keep up with them in nearly real time. And I, in turn, will keep you posted.


1 comment:

Bob said...

This is great! And of course you come at it from a unique point of view. Looking forward to hearing more about it.