Wandering around Oshkosh

Getting around Oshkosh involves a lot of meandering through parking lots. As many as 100,000 people will drive in to enjoy the show on any given day. Thus tens of thousands of cars with Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan plates surround the airfield. Having lived in Massachusetts for decades, I’m accustomed to cars whose owners have chosen to show the world how much smarter they are than average. The typical Prius in Cambridge, for example, will display bumper stickers showing that the owner voted for a slate of politicians who’ve promised to make the world a better place. These are augmented by direct statements of the owner’s plans for how other people should behave, e.g., a “Coexist” admonition with various religious symbols juxtaposed. How do they do it in the Midwest? The posteriors of the thousands of cars I walked by were shockingly naked. The handful of bumper stickers that I did see were references to obscure products for which the owner presumably had an enthusiasm. I did not see a single political bumper sticker nor any advocating a social cause.

Most of our evenings in Oshkosh were occupied with dinners for Experimental Aircraft Association supporters. At one we sat next to a quiet Air Force veteran named Blair Bozek. He had served as a crewmember on the SR-71 for 70 operational missions. Did he have any problems with the machine? we asked. “Just the usual hydraulic and electrical glitches,” was his response. We later Googled and found out that he’d had to eject out of a failed SR-71 and swim around in the South China Sea for a while. We decided to give him our “Master of Understatement” award.

A fundraising dinner for the EAA Young Eagles program yielded $2.1 million for a variety of items in a live auction. Generally the TV cameras would swing around to show the happy high bidder at the end of the auction for each item, e.g., a $375,000 customized Ford Mustang. Seemingly invariably it would be a pudgy grey-haired white guy sitting next to an attractive young blonde. I can’t quite figure out why Young Eagles needs so much money to operate, since the program is organized by local volunteers at various airports around the country. The actual rides for young people are given by local airplane owners who are not compensated. I have mixed feelings about the program. If someone said “I introduce young people to something fun, unnecessary, dangerous, and expensive”, my first thought would be “drug dealer”. There are a lot of programs to encourage young people to pursue careers in aviation. Is it kind to steer a young person toward a career in which there are 10 qualified people for every job? When the same young person could go into medicine and pick from 10 job openings for every qualified person?

Six of us found ourselves free one evening and of course ended up at Naughty Girls. My previous experience with gentlemen’s clubs had been in Canada. How does the American/Wisconsin strip club experience differ? Let’s just say that as a 6′ tall guy carrying some extra middle-aged weight you would have to abandon any idea that the strippers should be lighter than you. The high point of my evening was watching the youngest member of our gang (about 24 years old) put a dollar bill into a dancer’s panties while seemingly standing in a different zip code.

6 Comments

  1. Jon Deck

    July 31, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

    1

    Phil,

    Regarding: “Is it kind to steer a young person toward a career in which there are 10 qualified people for every job?”

    Though I have been reticent to steer anyone toward this career I must point out that timing is everything.

    A friend of mine, who is an American pilot, pointed out to me that the demographics of their pilot group dictate that when AMR finally begins attrition compensation hiring – Those initially hired will spend very little time in the right seat, will quickly move to senior wide-body flying and will probably wonder about all those old guys who complain about what a brutal career this is. “This is great! I am continually moving up!”

    The object is to figure out which age group will be best positioned to arrive at the qualification point at the right time.

    My best guess is that if you are between five and ten years of age right now, you are in optimum position. If you are older – forget it. Get a law degree.

  2. michael slater

    July 31, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

    2

    Is the guy’s name BozEk or BozAk?

    Anyway, if you can manage to avoid a seizure from the the geocities-style bright, bold on black fonts, there is a write-up of his crash here http://www.wvi.com/~sr71webmaster/Luzon.html

  3. philg

    August 1, 2010 @ 9:20 am

    3

    Jon: In recommending working for American Airlines to a 5-year-old kid, you have to factor in the possibility that American Airlines won’t be around 30 or 40 years from now. If not for protectionist laws that require domestic ownership it is tough to see how U.S. carriers would be able to survive competition from better-capitalized foreign airlines. Even before the heat from Emirates and the other up-and-coming airlines, U.S. airlines managed to disappear on a regular basis, each time leaving a group of pilots to start at the bottom of the seniority list somewhere else (e.g., Emirates!).

    Michael: Thanks for the link. It is indeed “Blair Bozek”. He also seems to have been involved in rescuing people out of the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack.

  4. Jon Deck

    August 1, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    4

    Phil,

    With respect to the protectionist laws that you cite. As an airline employee my point of view of course contains some bias.

    Though I personally know of many foreign nationals who are employed as pilots for major U.S. Carriers I am unaware of even one who works for a foreign flag carrier.

    I very much doubt that British Airways has a single American, nor any other foreign national for that matter, on their pilot roster.

    Liberalizing ownership laws without ensuring equal opportunity hiring would be less than fair.

    Though, when really desperate, european carriers will occasionally hire Americans on a contract basis the careers at foreign flag carriers are strictly reserved for native sons and daughters.

    Though asian carriers have had to hire americans they too prefer to do so on a contract basis so that they can switch to indigenous pilots as soon as they can.

    It is made clear to those that work there that they are hired hands and are less than equals.

    Other governments have been known to go to great lengths to protect their flag carriers. It’s a free market for employment only until that does not work for the protected carrier.

    In India and the Philippines when pilots started leaving for greener pastures instead of raising pay the airlines successfully lobbied their respective governments to institute legislation requiring pilots to give six months notice prior to leaving. Quitting with less than six months notice is a punishable offense in India.

    With respect to American; The five to ten year old is taking a chance that they will go out of business but American is a strong brand with very good political connections. I am going to bet that even if they go through a reorganization they will survive and their executives will not go hungry.

  5. Doug

    August 2, 2010 @ 7:34 am

    5

    My advice to aspiring pilots, male or female, marry a nurse. You have to make your way high on the pilot job ladder before you get benefits

    I do agree, the problem is not getting young people into aviation but rather finding something for them to do in aviation.

    I thought the Roush Mustang auction for the Young Eagles cause was, well, queer. It just did not sit right. Where is the message? Aren’t extravagant and overpriced car auctions passe right now? A $375,000 mustang, come on… they should have auctioned Angelina’s Cirrus. The message – the “pudgy grey-haired white guy sitting next to an attractive young blonde” that bought that car was likely not an airline pilot.

  6. CraigC

    August 2, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

    6

    Phil,

    Regarding the lack of political bumper stickers in the Midwest, I have to concur.

    My family and I just returned from a vacation where we drove from Maryland (my home for 40+ years) to Wisconsin and back.

    Not only did the number of political/religious bumper stickers drastically diminish west of Pennsylvania (almost to none), but so too did the excessive speeding, tailgating, and aggressive driving.

    Another case for humans not meant to be piled on top of each other on the coasts.

    Just a more relaxing, laid-back style when people can spread out.

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