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The High & the Writey: The Future is Mostly Ahead of Us!

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Kevin Garrison ponders all of the futuristic stuff going on out there and wonders why it has passed him by.

Thirty years ago, we all used VORs or looked out of the window to navigate, and thought that having a DME was the height of modern flight technology. Now, my antique airplane has dual AHRS and three GPS units: my watch, my iPhone, and my Stratus. The Stratus shows me weather displays that I did not have on the Boeing 777 when I flew it a few years ago.

Today I was watching the news and they were reporting about Domino’s Pizza in New Zealand delivering the first pizza by drone. The drone hovers and a wire lowers the pizza to the hungry customers. 

In addition to their plans to deliver various things by drone to our homes and businesses, Amazon.com has a new fleet of old 767s that it plans to use to enter the instant cargo business.

Elon Musk is deeply involved with sending people permanently to Mars and the planets beyond in a quest to ensure humanity’s survival by spreading our species around the Solar System. 

Solar-powered aircraft are no longer an idle dream. They exist and work quite well. 

So, very exciting things are happening in our world of aviation—and yet, here I sit in my cold office this month not doing very much. My plane is in its T-hangar with snow blocking the door, which is okay by me since the winds are too high to go flying anyway.

Gray skies, cold weather and a nagging long-term head cold have left me pondering all of the futuristic stuff going on out there and wondering why it has all passed me by. I haven’t droned, explored Mars, or built an electric airplane. All I have been doing lately is working, sniffing and waiting for spring. 

And I suspect that more than a few of you out there are not doing the same things I am not doing. There is a brave new world coming to life out there, and we are huddled under our blankets. We need to get out and embrace the future! We should grab a piece of the interplanetary future of flight that the rest of the world is developing! 

I have come up with a plan that will not only get me through the next few months without getting cabin fever to the point of shooting my refrigerator, it will make me a with-it member of the futuristic aviation tribe. 

Kevin’s plan to dominate the future of flying

1. I will start my wintertime renewal by watching every single episode of “Firefly” at least twice. This short-lived television series depicted a universe (or “verse,” as they said it) that has already finished Elon Musk’s program of planetary settlement. 

Since I “plan to do some misbehaving,” it is a perfect start in my quest to get modern—and it doesn’t involve getting out from under this blanket.

2. AOPA has a wide variety of free-for-the-taking, computer-based courses on just about any aviation subject you care to name. I’m saying free, as in costs you nothing but time. I want to learn more about the modernistic things I’ve been missing and here is a no-cost way to get my gray matter up to speed while my office thermostat continues to eat up every bit of my winter flying fund. 

Speaking of free education, have you noticed all of the You Tube videos on aviation education subjects that are free for the watching? Have you seen all of the FAA materials that are free for the taking? 

The days of having to spend thousands of dollars to learn about flying are over. Much like cat videos on the internet, there is almost no end to the no-cost aviation resources for us out there. All we need is the desire to learn and the time to do it.

3. New Agers have been saying for some time that we all live in the universe that we choose for ourselves out of an infinite number of possibilities. Many of these visionaries have been on the Oprah show, so you know they have to be legit. If you focus your attention on a life path or situation you want, you can get it, because the universe is all about making you happy. 

This theory is most likely a steaming and rancid bucket of moldy prop wash, but it would not hurt for me to test it out this winter. As I huddle under a blanket this winter doing my, ahem, daily meditation, I will focus on being in a universe where I own and fly a Spitfire Mark V. 

4. My General Aviation brain bag is in dire need of a futuristic update—and possibly a disinfecting steam bath of some sort. I need to get rid of the two-year out-of-date paper charts in my flight kit and buy futuristic “current” charts. I’ll also bring my handheld GPS into the future by getting a database update.

Since we are talking about a brave and modern world in which a pizza can magically fall from the sky, I might do away with my flight bag all together. Why, all I need is my GPS wristwatch and my smartphone in order to navigate the skies of the land of the free! 

The only problem with thrusting my flight kit into the future by making it disappear is, where do I put the snacks, drinks and toys that I have in it now? Maybe the future will be one in which I lose weight and pay more attention to flying the plane. And that would not be a bad thing.

5. The final futuristic activity I will practice during this dark and dank winter is to stop talking about how great things were in the past. I will practice not saying things like, “we used to have to do arithmetic in our heads or with little wooden sticks called ‘pencils.’”

I won’t go on and on about hand-propping airplanes because “we didn’t believe in having that newfangled electricity in our airplanes that you youngsters seem so stuck on.” 

Of course, when I was a kid, all of us built kites out of newspaper, sticks, glue and string. We built our airplanes in our garages and flew out of grass fields with no transponders, ADS-B or an “interweb” of any kind. It was great, but the past is past—and this winter will be all about getting in the right frame of mind to enjoy the future of flying.

Two things are sure in this world: first, the future of aviation will occur—tomorrow; and second, at my airport it is cold, soggy and depressing—today. 

These are scientific facts, like the principles of fluid dynamics. Why disrupt the cosmos? Tomorrow is when I plan to do all of the things I listed to get ready to be modern.


Kevin Garrison’s aviation career began at age 15 as a lineboy in Lakeland, Fla. He came up through General Aviation and retired as a 767 captain in 2006. Currently Garrison is a DC-9 simulator instructor and a 767 pilot instructor; his professional writing career has spanned three decades. He lives with the most patient woman on the planet on a horse farm in Kentucky. Send questions or comments to .

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