Visit to Greenland Pines Elementary

November 21, 2013

The production of the slide video you are about to see, as well as the actual presentation itself, turned out to be an unintended, but significant, blessing for Malone Air Charter and Craig airport. Oddly, It has transformed itself into the perfect metaphor for the answer to the problem of the runway extension we detail in the first HOT ISSUE just above. That is why you are finding a fun little school visit video recap juxtaposed against a most significant local (and quite acrimonious) political issue – an odd circumstance, but a very real and unique correlation I hope you will see by the time you have spent a little time with us in this section. The Suns and Malone Air sponsored a contest, had a fortuitous winner on September 1st, then took that winner and her family on a wonderful trip the following weekend. Then – almost as an afterthought – we decided to add a little bonus because our winner was a grade school teacher. We put together a visit to her classroom so her students could share in the fun that is clearly evident on the Flight to Miami video made during the trip. Some things are truly Providential and I think this slide-video from that sojourn to Greenland Pines Elementary School is suggestive of just that very thing. Now here’s what I mean.

The final outcome of the Flight to Miami giveaway was this visit to a classroom full of third graders belonging to our contest winner. It was not one of the original planned events associated with the contest, but seemed a natural followup to a trip during which several people from three different groups – the Suns, Malone Air and Kristin’s family – actually became real friends over the course of the adventure. We saw an opportunity to do just one more little thing for this fine young woman with a handful of third graders as her students. If you look at the slides closely, you will see a strong interaction grow between the kids, Southpaw and that “Old Pilot”as the morning progressed. As expected, the kids were excited over Southpaw, but it was clearly evident that the subject of airplanes, flying and going nice places was a real hit, too; that maybe this topic was just enough outside their normal frame of reference that – by just being there and giving them access to our world – a significant learning experience had evolved for them.

I’d expected the students to be excited over the wildly popular Suns’ mascot, Southpaw (and they were!), but I’d wondered how they would take to the video and to my words about the science of flight, opportunities in the profession of aviation and what it was like to be a pilot. The flight to Miami video, which speaks for itself, would be my first clue that all would be (much more than just) well. From the video, there’s no doubt that Kristin and her loved ones relished every minute of their trip. What may not be quite so obvious because the focus was on the winners, is that the hosts – Erik, J.D. and I – were deeply blessed to see the pleasure we’d help bring to some really nice and well-deserving people. The mutually satisfying circumstances made meaningful friendship the logical and natural outcome. I think the word is serendipity and this was surely a serendipitous event in the making – not just on the flight – but spilling over even into the classroom and now even into a matter that truly needs some serendipity, if it is to be resolved: our bothersome runway extension issue. At the conclusion of the slide video, the youngsters broke into a spontaneous applause so quickly and so enthusiastically that they actually telegraphed their elation. They’d taken great pleasure in watching their teacher enjoy herself and it burst forth immediately as the last slide faded away. It was the kind of rapid, intense hand-clapping that says: “You just made me real happy and I like that!”. That experience – and their delight in seeing Southpaw – set them up to be receptive to all that followed. They questioned eagerly, rapidly, and intensely just like their earlier applause. Some were familiar with aviation, but the early events of our morning together had made them realize there was something out there they weren’t too familiar with, but they wanted more of it – much, much more. And that was when the ideas began to pour into my head. Here’s what they were.

We have a problem. Craig Airport needs to be allowed to grow and to reach its potential so that all the wonderful things that could be taking place…well…could take place. Unfortunately, because the modern private and business aircraft that would normally use such a geographically well-situated airport require more than a 4000 foot runway to operate in and out of the field, Jacksonville and its citizens are losing revenue, jobs and opportunities every single day that runway stays only 4000 feet long. And the really sad part is this: there is absolutely no technical, scientific, environmental or economic reason that this (now) 20+ year issue of seeking to lengthen the available takeoff and landing distance has not been favorably acted upon. None. Every other major city in this nation has an executive airport with at least a 5,000 foot runway proximal to the business hub of the respective metropolitan area…except Jacksonville. How can that be? As a retired Air Force pilot, military airfield manager and major-university trained aviation safety officer (as well as a former high school physical science teacher), I can tell you professionally there is no valid reason. Again, none. Providentially, as I stood before those young people with their bright eager faces, it was the teacher in me that finally grasped the obvious metaphor before me. See if this doesn’t make sense to you.

There still is a bit of a mystique to aviation that keeps a surprisingly large number of people from ever taking an informed look at it. To know what a really wonderful experience private air travel can be, you either must experience it for yourself (as Kristin did) or have someone you know and respect tell you (or show you in a personal video) about their involvement with it. To be able to comprehend the economic impact of general and business aviation on a city’s economy and to realize the myriad jobs produced by the existence and use of private aircraft, you need to be privy to the info that shows that. To even develop an interest in aviation, someone has to introduce you to it. A really sad truth is that most people look at the world of aviation – and particularly private and business avaiation – as the exclusive domain of the wealthy, the powerful and the famous and that was generally true at one time. Today, however, there are many different aircraft types with wonderful capabilities that can be used affordably for particular kinds of personal trips while business aircraft are an absolutely essential tool for the business of doing business. And on a sadder note, since aviation has previously tended to be a male-dominated domain (which is changing quickly by the way) the increasing absence of fathers in the home has tended to repress the numbers of young people getting the opportunity to be introduced to the most wonderful professional career in the world….and one of the most respected on all social value surveys. Simply put, to the average citizen the world of aviation is largely a great unknown for them; hence the “Aha!” moment for me.

At Craig airport we simply haven’t done a real good job of telling our story; of finding ways to let people (like Kristin) discover the joys of the aircraft we fly every day or of becoming conversant on the issues that govern the effective use of aviation assets. We haven’t been teachers! We haven’t taken our show on the road! And we have, therefore, by default, allowed fear and misinformation to be given to people who would otherwise prosper from the wise use and advancement of an industry that is vital to the American economy, rather than blocking an action that would only lead to an increased general welfare. Fearmongers and their self-serving surrogates can only halt vital progress when the people themselves remain in darkness. It took watching Kristin et al and a handful of third graders before whom I’d not planned to stand at the outset of our contest to help me see the bigger picture. We just need to let people experience our airport and to tell our story as often as we can. When we do finally get it right, there’ll be that explosion of spontaneous, rapid and intense applause we saw at Greenland Pines Elementary school in Ms Kristin Spilling’s third grade class. Now here’s that serendipity thing again.

As result of a decision by the Suns and Malone Air to give away a trip and “to bless some folks in the Jacksonville area” (that was actually said on the first Trip to Miami segment we recorded on Video 3a), Providence then sent us the right winner to bring about the revelation that could lead to an event that should – by any objective measure – have been accomplished a long time ago had ignorance of the facts not allowed fear and misinformation to stifle it. Now, as a result of a room full of eager, bright third graders we could only have met if Kristin won our contest, we will now make our pilots available to the schools around Craig airport to enrich their curriculum and give the good folks of Arlington an opportunity and a reason to visit their airport – JAXEX at Craig airport – to discover the world to which some of Kristin’s kids were introduced a few weeks ago. We will tell the churches proximal to Craig the real and true story behind the air operations at our home airfield. Now, because of the joy and friendship that grew from one teacher winning a flight, we will do everything in our power to evolve Craig airport into the full blessing it should be to our friends living in our shadow. Craig, the airplanes already there, as well as those that will come when our runway stretches out to 6,000 feet, will grow into an exciting and welcome monument to the great good that maximized aviation operations can be to an economy and to a people.

Thanks for watching this slide video and for learning a little more about our professional world. We love to fly.


Filed in: Craig Airport Runway ExtensionHot IssuesSchool Programs

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