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To paraphrase a famous saying, “It takes a village to raise a pilot”.  When I earned my pilot’s licence, it took lots of people.  I had many instructors, too many actually.  There were eight.  The last one was the best.  I had three teachers in ground school.  Plus, dozens of friends who gave me an abundance of piloting advice, mostly unsolicited.  And, numerous other folks who contributed to my success, even those who were the naysayers ultimately help push me towards my goal.  Without my aviation community, I would not have made it.

So, thank you to you all.

My journey to be a pilot and join this amazing community has been a lifelong endeavour.

Mark and me
Instructor Mark Brooks and me on a recent Check Ride (Photo – M. Brooks)

Community – What does that mean?  By the textbook, it is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.  Also, it is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Does this description sum up AirVenture in Oshkosh coming this month for you?  It sure does for me.

Camp Schooler
Camping at AirVenture (Photo – EAA)

There are, broadly speaking, five different types of communities.

You can classify every type of community by the purpose that brings them together.

  1. Interest. Communities of people who share the same interest or passion.
  2. Action. Communities of people trying to bring about change.
  3. Place. Communities of people brought together by geographic boundaries.
  4. Practice. Communities of people in the same profession or undertake the same activities.
  5. Circumstance. Communities of people brought together by external events/situations.

If we consider the AirVenture annual gathering, then it is a community of interest.  It consists of members who are interested in – and passionate about – the same topic.   In this case, aviation is the shared topic.  Community members come together with the purpose of sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge about a shared topic.

Fireworks over FIFI, the Boeing B-29 (Photo – EAA)

Given that members might be located anywhere in the world, there needs to be several means to share in this community since it only forms in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for one week per year.  It is therefore vital to sustaining this community by leveraging ongoing interactions of the community.  These interactions take several forms – web sites, social media posts, newsletters, magazines, local chapters, events, and much more.

Camping at AirVenture (Photo – M Martin)

It can be argued that the EAA is also engaged as a community of action.  Perhaps EAA and AirVenture embody all five forms of the definition of community?

The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.

When I was a young child, my entire community was my very large family.  It was composed largely of my brothers and sisters.  My village had borders that extended to the edges of our family’s 1/2 acre of property.  As a young boy, my village expanded to be the length of our street and included the kids who explored the woods, played baseball, and discovered music with me.  Later, my village grew larger with grade school and then high school.

A portion of the family circa 1968 (Photo – Personal Archive)

During high school, my world diversified to include several smaller villages driven by clubs and sports.  I was an Air Cadet with the 713 squadron, along with two of my brothers.

Air Cadets
713 Air Cadet Squadron.  Can you spot me in the group? (Photo – Personal Archive)

Wherever the school bus could transport me in my town was now my known universe.

High School
A part of my grade 12 homeroom class after graduation (Photo – M Martin)

Once my first car was purchased, the limits extended further afield to other towns and even cities.

1972 VW Beetle, purchased new for $1,995

For college, I took my first jet ride and moved to Tokyo to study photography.  My world change dramatically overnight.  I had to relearn how to eat, sleep, and even use the bathroom – all of these every day tasks were foreign to me as the Japanese ways were completely different.

Back in Canada, I started to work.  My universe grew with business trips to other cities, provinces, and across the country.  Road trips for business took days and even weeks.  I ventured in the USA to NYC and LAX.  And for fun to FLA.

Around the World
YYZ > HKG > SIN >PEK > YYZ – Around the globe in less than a week (Photo – M Martin)

As I have grown in my work, I travelled globally for over a decade and have been to over 50 countries on business trips.  With in excess of 3,000,000 actual passenger seat miles in perhaps 70+ airlines – I have flown a lot.  Over 1,000,000 miles have been in Air Canada where I am now ‘Elite for Life’.  The planet earth was now my community.

The notion of the world as a village was becoming a reality.

While business took me around the earth, sometimes circumnavigating it 8 times in one year and crossing the equator 10 times, I lived in jet airplanes and travelled up to 200 nights per year.  I was a traveller, but I was rarely a tourist.

Visiting the Hydrogen Fueled Community in Kyushu, Japan (Photo – K Chin)

As I have aged, I searched for fun, excitement, and a diversity of interests beyond the work world.  I needed more.  I sought values outside of the business world.  Values to shape a bigger life.  I found the Red Tails.

Tuskegee Airmen ‘Dog Tags’ (Photo – M Martin)

Considering how much commercial flying I was doing every year as a seated passenger, it seems rather odd that it was general aviation that captured my heart so strongly.  As an amateur photographer and a past Air Cadet, I had always naturally gravitated towards airshows in my teens to capture stunning images of pilot’s performing daring deeds.

My 2017 Route to Oshkosh with stops to visit Frank Lloyd Wright Homes (Photo – M Martin)

The GA bug infected my very soul.  The first time I pondered the idea of driving to AirVenture, it seemed like an epic and exotic trip, a huge undertaking.  But, I had a new motorhome for the camping, so I decided it was an acceptable risk and labelled it as an adventure.  I had to give it a try.  After that first trip, I was trapped.  I had to have more.  Just like a junkie with his first taste of cocaine, or a gambler’s first roll of the dice – I was hooked.

Volunteering in 2016 with The Red Tail RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit (Photo – L Kay)

After a few years of attending the annual gathering in Oshkosh, I connected on several interesting levels with the overarching AirVenture community as well as with some of the sub-communities found within the confines of the airport.  I found other beginner pilots, I met folks who shared my love of photography, and still others who shared my enthusiasm for camping. I became a volunteer.  Most of all, they all loved aviation, just like me.

My first year at Oshkosh was 1999, and the husband and wife who camped next to me were large scale RC pilots.  Something that I knew absolutely nothing about.  So, I was intrigued by them.  Every year I learn more and more from the aviation community.

The Red Tail By Request P-51C Mustang (Photo – K Mist)

It was easy to fall in love with the warbird community with the alluring Mustangs and fierce Corsairs.

Waco YMF-5 – Sexy beyond imagination (Photo – Waco)

And, I adored the open cockpit biplanes, especially the crimson red Waco YMF-5 – OU LA LA – what a beautiful lady.

Oshkosh B-17
Flying in the B-17 Over Oshkosh (Photo – M Martin)

At AirVenture over the years, I have said, “hello” to over 12 real-life astronauts, including two that went to the moon.

AirVenture 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program (Photo – EAA)

As a child in school, classes would stop, TVs were rolled in, and we would watch these courageous space explorers go beyond our youthful imaginations.  These brave adventurers expanded my universe even more.  The technology of television exploded the size of my universe and allowed me to share in their adventures, albeit from the comfort of home.

Riding in a Harvard (Photo – M Martin)

Now, as a senior, I sense that my universe is contracting.  It grows smaller with age.  I no longer jet around the globe.  I have returned to flying for business, but just in Canada.  The circle of life is now reversing itself, exactly as it must.

Coffee at Starbucks in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. (Photo – K Mist)

Yet, some of the villages within my community are still strongly represented and defy contraction.  The aviation village is  fighting the reduction and perhaps even expanding?  My passion for flying and the entire realm of aviation has not waned even the smallest bit.   I may not be a global traveller anymore, but my annual visit to Oshkosh is still the highlight trip of the year.

In this age of harsh and abusive politics, crazy wars, countries run by ego centric maniacs, resulting in insane torments, the fabric of a true village seems harder to come by.

But, in the world of aviation, the feeling is strong, positive, and enduring.  The bond that holds us all together is unyielding to the intense divisiveness of our age.  We are a community of like-minded brothers and sisters forever cemented as an indestructible village sealed by stretched fabric, shiny aluminum, glowing displays and gauges, spinning props, LL100 and Jet-A fumes, and roaring engines.  Even as I write these passages, I can imagine the musical sound of the sweet Rolls-Royce Merlin engine Doppler effect as it races past.  All of these elements make our collective hearts beat a wee bit faster.

Canada’s Snowbirds performing at AirVenture (Photo – EAA)

About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.

He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s Office of the CTO, Global Services. Over the past 14 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.