Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Future of Vintage Aircraft Operation and Restoration
Many issues come to mind in looking to the future of vintage aircraft operation and restoration. Issues related to engine parts, airframe parts, fuel, and the costs of all of those items rolled into what we will call "operational costs" for this article. Who has the skills and tools to restore and maintain vintage aircraft? Are the skills to fly these aircraft being taught to new pilots today? Then, what could be done to generate an interest in flying? What needs to take place to bring more people into the aviation community? How do we educate the newcomers and current pilots to the history and heritage of vintage aircraft? I don't have answers to all of these issues but I do have thoughts on some of them.
One of the main factors that does give me hope for the future of vintage aircraft is technology. Today's technologies provide us with the tools we need to make from scratch the once extinct engine and airframe parts. With new technology we can build old technology! And build it better! Over time the parts have become unusable because of age and wear. With the advance of technology the cost to produce new parts comes down and this should help with operational costs. I am very excited that vintage aircraft parts can be built. Put all those parts together and once extinct aircraft can be reborn!
Examples of technology in action for vintage aircraft would be... A company in New Zealand, The Vintage Aviator, is building brand new engines for World War One era aircraft! Another company is building brand new spars, very complicated spars, for the F4U Corsair! In Arizona a shop is turning out brand new Boeing 100 series biplanes. A Texas company built up brand new copies of the Grumman F3F and German Me-262. I could go on. My hope is that more enthusiasts will invest in building and rebuilding vintage aircraft.
So technology and tools are one part but who will operate that technology and those tools? Are there ways to educate future generations to what is needed to keep vintage aircraft flying? A glimmer of hopes exists in me as trade schools and aviation camps provide a draw into aviation. From those schools and events we can teach the history behind our vintage aircraft and hopefully draw an interest. There are many aviation trade schools around the country (one here - Redstone College) and a few aviation camps. Peach State Aero has a camp and EAA has their Air Academy summer camps. That is good news for the aviation community! Are we supporting these organizations? Let's do what we can to spread the word about these schools and camps!
As the airplanes are maintained to continue flying and restored to fly again, where will they be based? What airports? What hangars? What will the aviation community and vintage aviation community do to provide an outlet for those owners and pilots? Local chapters of national organizations provide monthly social events, activities and fly-ins. Are those local chapters drawing in their friends, neighbors and other community organizations? Could more be done? Back in the 1930s there was an aviation country club in New York. Why don't we have those? Why aren't there more aviation friendly locals and vacation destinations?
I know I have presented a lot of questions here and as I stated I don't have answers to them all. I would love to hear from readers what they think of some or all of these issues that deal with the future of aviation. You can comment on this blog or send me an email. I will re-publish the emails if relevant ideas are presented.