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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Forget Work and Have Some Fun

By Ernie Stephens

This, my friends, is going to be a two-part editorial. This first part contains a recommendation directed at each and every individual who reads Rotor & Wing, from the CEOs of the industry’s leading producers, to the summer intern who found a copy of this magazine on the table in the break room. It has to do with something that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t fly as much as I used to, but I still get to pilot a helicopter a couple of times a month, if I’m lucky. It’s mostly to do aircraft evaluations for this publication. When I do, I’m focusing on safety, of course, but I’m also paying close attention to things such as how the aircraft handles, whether or not the avionics are user-friendly, and dozens of other characteristics. A couple of weeks ago, I was getting a biennial flight review. So, instead of paying attention to those kinds of nuances, I had to be just as focused on executing the requisite maneuvers and "hitting the numbers" while being graded. (It was extra interesting, because I had not been in that particular model of aircraft in over two years.)

"Fun. Always try to get fun in!"

— Philip Johnson, Architect

Fortunately, I managed to prove that I was still capable of driving helicopters with some degree of proficiency and just the least little bit of flair. But before being told to return to the hangar, the flight instructor said, "We’re done. Do you want to just fly around for a while?" (He’s a smart guy, but that was sure a stupid question.) For a short, but glorious 30 minutes, I had a chance to do something I haven’t done in several years. I flew around with no particular place to go, no particular mission to complete, and no particular time fuel notwithstanding to finish by. And even though I didn’t really go anywhere spectacular, it didn’t matter. I got to enjoy the sights, the sounds, the feel and even the smell of flying for flying’s sake.

And therein lies the point of the first part of this month’s editorial.

When was the last time you set aside your professional responsibilities and just piloted or rode in a helicopter for the pure enjoyment of it? And if you happen to work in this industry but would rather eat broken glass than actually go up in the air, when was the last time you just walked around a helicopter and admired the technological hocus-pocus that makes such an ungainly looking contraption fly?

Do yourself a favor once in a while and just savor the enjoyment of being in or around helicopters. Take a ride. Soak in the view. See what your neighborhood looks like from 500 feet. If you don’t like to fly, bring a pal or child to the flight line. Surprise them with a ride, if you can. Have fun watching them discover vertical flying machines. It’ll put you back in touch with the joyful side of this industry, and remind you of how incredibly cool all of this is.

That leads me to part two of this piece. For several weeks I’ve been telling my boss that I miss flying, and how I wish I could get out this office more and visit the members of our beloved aviation community. But running a magazine takes quite a bit if time and desk work. I just don’t get very many chances.

One day, he said, "Ernie, how would you like to be the editor-at-large for Aviation Today and Rotor & Wing?"

Nope. I didn’t know what an "editor-at-large" was, either.

He said an editor-at-large goes to all of the aviation shows, visits businesses that serve the helicopter community and serves as the liaison between Rotor & Wing magazine, our big aviationtoday.com website and the world.

How could I refuse?

So, the bad news is that this will be my last issue as editor-in-chief of Rotor & Wing. The really, really good news is two-fold. First, I’ll now have more opportunities to be out among the people and machines that I’ve loved being around and writing about all these years. And second, Rotor & Wing’s new editor-in-chief will be Joy Finnegan, who was the boss at one of our sister publications. She’s been in the aviation industry for more than 30 years. She will be introducing herself to you in this spot next month.

They say it’s nice when things come together just right, and this is one of those things. We get a great person at the controls running the magazine, and I get more time to see what you’re doing at your place and share the photos, videos and stories with everyone via the magazine and the website. It can’t get much better than that...unless my boss issues me a company helicopter to get around in!

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