Camaraderie is a beautiful thing. You see it in cops on the street, in firefighters, in Bands of Brothers on the battlefield. It is the glue that holds these groups together, watching each other’s backs while they all pull in one unified direction. But for the few of us who are lucky enough to have lived in the last 110 years and possess the skills, training and machines to fly like birds, we share a bond that runs deeper than pure camaraderie.
We are more than just the “GA community,” we are an aviation family. As tight as blood relatives, we are dedicated to serving other family members not out of a sense of responsibility, but because of far deeper, hard-wired programming within our souls that as pilots, we should always reach out and help other pilots whenever and wherever the need arises. It’s what we do.
Like any family, we have our squabbles at times. Our ideologies might be all over the map, but for some reason, the airport fence filters out those differences. When around airplanes, we members of the aviation family are of one mind, one spirit. We think alike, and share an invisible bond that only members of this very exclusive club get to enjoy. Within the confines of an airport, amongst the very machines that allow us to loft skyward, aviators know no limits when it comes to service.
The concept of “pilots helping pilots” within the aviation family was illustrated for me in 2009 as I attempted to fly commercial to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. I was waiting at O’Hare Airport to board the last flight of the night to Appleton, Wisconsin when myself and about 60 other people bound for the World’s Largest Aviation Celebration learned that the flight was cancelled. Not delayed…cancelled. As I waited in the Customer Service line, I met Dave Voetmann of Quest Aircraft, who like me, had an early appointment at the show in the morning. He arranged a van from his church to drive from Oshkosh to get him, and without being asked, offered me a seat in the van. It was simply a pilot helping another pilot in a time of need, and on that night, rolling through the dark Wisconsin night, I realized how lucky I was to be among these wonderful, giving people.
Being a pilot means this much to me: I joined AOPA when I began flight training in early 1996, but refused to place the AOPA wings on the back window of my truck until I had my ticket. On the day I was issued my private pilot license, I walked out the door of the FBO and proudly placed that important decal on my vehicle. Sure, it was just a thin plastic set of AOPA wings, but they signified something very important to me…a goal achieved.
On that day, I not only became a pilot, I became part of the aviation family, and my life was changed forever.
The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.