In pondering what to say in my second article as Chairman of the VAHS Board of Directors it crossed my mind as to why I joined and continue to belong to the VAHS. Thinking about the words that make up the name of our organization – yes, I’m a Virginian (Virginia); yes, I’ve been involved in aviation (Aeronautical) for approximately 60 years and an active pilot for over 50 of those years; yes, I enjoy the comradery of belonging to an organization of like minded folks (Society); but I think one of the main reasons I’m attracted to the VAHS is its tie to aviation history (Historical).
In my professional years in the military, as a university administrator and dean of a university aeronautics school I was involved many times in setting a sense of direction, in creating a vision and in leading an organization to grow and move forward. Thus, I’m reminded of the adage “If you don’t know where we’ve been you won’t know where you’re going.” Or, as some are wont to say, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As aviators, knowing and understanding our aviation roots will help us understand and better apprecoate all the advances and technology which exist today and how to best apply them. Most particularly we will have a far greater appreciation for the role aviation and airplanes have played in building today’s world and how it will affect the future.
Almost 15 years ago I transitioned to flying airplanes with “glass cockpits.” Cessna 172’s that had more advanced communication and navigation systems than some commercial airliners and current military aircraft. Having flown “basic needle, ball and airspeed” aircraft early in my flying career, although it was a challenge to make the change, the old knowledge combined with the new made me a better pilot.
The same is true for having good aeronautical sense and making sound aeronautical decisions. Putting and viewing situations in their current context is important but looking at them with a historical perspective provides even better, as we say in the flying world, SA or situational awareness.
For almost two years as the president of the Lynchburg Regional Airshow corporation (don’t let me fool you – it’s a bunch of volunteers who like to put on airshows) I’ve been involved in preparing for the 75th commemoration of the 1944 D-Day invasion. In my opinion, this was one of, if not the most monumental military operation in the history of warfare. The success of D-Day set the stage for the conquering of the Nazi regime and freeing Europe from the tyranny of Hitler and his henchmen. What I’ve come to appreciate most is an increased awareness of the significance of what occurred 75 years ago. If it had failed, we would be living in a different world and potentially a much different country. Understanding, knowing and appreciating the sacrifices that were made and the importance of the application of airpower are critical to military planners even today as we continue to guard the freedoms we enjoy. What we learned in aviation in the 1940’s set the stage for the future of commercial aviation, for training pilots and aircrews and for even recreational pilots. It is the basis for much of how we fly today and why we do it the way we do.
This is why I joined the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society and continue to tout its value to today’s generation – we should never forget how we got where we are and how we draw on history to carry us forward.