Monday, December 21, 2009

A little bit of everything. . .

This is the off-season for Air Racing. It is the time when the Race Teams reassess, reevaluate, regroup and refocus. There are planning meetings going on from Florida to Texas to California and everyone is in deep thought about how to do it better, faster, safer, and with more pizzazz.

The final airshow of the season has been put in the history books also. This year, even with the economic slowdown, Air Show attendance thrived. It was a great year for many of the Air Show acts and they are also deep in thought about how to do it better next year. The International Council of Air Shows holds their yearly convention this month in Las Vegas and exciting things should be coming our way after the show.

Aviation History Month

I’m sorry I forgot to share this last month, but November is Aviation History Month. I have been suggesting to my friends and fans to head on over to their local Aviation Museum. I bet there are several museums within a few hours’ drive from all of you. I hope you take my advice and stop by your local museum, bring the neighborhood kids, volunteer, become a member, join the CAF, join Planes of Fame, join the crew, be a part of the action.

My visit to an Aviation Museum changed my life. Many of you have heard the story of how Stan Hiller of Hiller Helicopter and Hiller Aviation Museum inspired me to become a pilot. He was just opening his museum and asked me everyday why I wasn’t a pilot. I finally took his advice and have not looked back. I thank him every day for his inspiration.

Where do pilots come from?

Most of the pilots I race and fly with each year have stories to tell about how their dad and/or mom would take them up in the family plane back when they were too young to reach the pedals. They also tell stories about their first Airshow or their first trip to the Air Races.

I also know a few pilots who experienced their first airplane ride via the Young Eagles program through EAA. Two of the new hotshot pilots at my airport, in fact, were EAA/YE Kids. Now, that makes me feel old, but quite proud of both of them. Besides YE, many programs are available these days to focus our youth on aviation as a career or a hobby.

One of the programs is from an organization called Build a Plane (BAP). They are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting aviation and aerospace careers by giving young people the opportunity to actually build real airplanes. Aircraft construction and restoration projects provide an exciting opportunity to motivate kids to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a hands-on environment. They began operations in 2003 and have steadily gained success across the USA ever since.

BAP seeks aircraft donations as well as the names of interested schools and groups who want to participate in this program. Get in touch with them for more information (

Another program I have recently come across is Girls with Wings (GWW). This is the brainchild of Lynda Meeks, a Commercial, Military Airplane and Helicopter Pilot. When asked why she started the organization, Lynda said, “Aviation is the perfect ‘vehicle’ for inspiring girls to set goals and to achieve them.” Now, that is a goal I can get behind.

Lynda became a pilot because the Army ROTC Officer told her that Army Flight School was the toughest, and she likes a challenge. While in the military, she was flying on a commercial airliner when the captain came on to give the standard announcements, a little voice from the seat behind her said, Mom, how come you never hear any girl pilots?” Lynda says that little voice changed her life and made her want to take on another challenge. Promoting awareness of female pilots, and that’s how she started GWW. Go to for more information. And remember, Chicks fly, too - or - as my car tags say, chxfly2.

Another heartwarming story comes from Redstone College, a Denver-based institution of higher learning. They received a Learjet 24D in September which will be on permanent loan from the Spirit of Flight Center, a Colorado-based non-profit air museum.

The 1976 Learjet 24D donated by Spirit of Flight Center is a five-seat, twin-engine high speed business jet that holds five international climb records with owner and pilot Ed Wachs of Illinois. The jet sports a unique five-color rainbow graphic, one color for each record, has a range of 1,266 miles and a maximum speed of 565 mph.
“We are delighted to play a role in the educational process at Redstone College, as we continue to be impressed by the quality of individuals who graduate from their institution,” said Gordon Page, President of the Spirit of Flight Center. They can be found here

What does that mean to you?

In the past few years, we were lucky enough to see some young blood coming into Unlimited Air Racing. Stevo Hinton and Will Whiteside along with Brant Seghetti and are bright stars for our future.

With the average age of pilots going up, we need to inspire our youth to work hard and to put away the Flight Simulator and go out to the Airports. Today we don’t get to see the “Airport Kids” sitting on the fence anymore. The fences are higher and now guarded by government watch dogs. So, we need to go get them and bring them with us. Great programs are available. Volunteer, take the kids, become part of the future by inspiring someone. Someone inspired all of us, now it’s our turn.

Until next time,

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing