Seaplanes have been around for decades.
On March 28, 1910, the first successful seaplane take-off from water at Martinque, France, occurred. The seaplane or Hydravion was flown by its inventor, Henri Fabre.
That’s 101 years of heritage we are rightfully proud of. Seaplanes have contributed a lot to societies and economies, and even though the ‘sport’ remains as a microscopically – tiny niche product of aviation, seaplanes are flown by people who want to connect H2O with Lift. This is done very passionately and usually at great financial sacrifice.
For the most part seaplane pilots stay to themselves here in the U.S. of A. Entrance into the ‘special’ club is usually granted through acquisition of a seaplane rating and that does usually not occur very early in a aviators life. People generally start flying land planes, get the opportunity to ride in a seaplane, or see one on a nearby lake and get nosy. Even when the seaplane rating is finished, many turn back to land planes and put seaplanes on the back burner, until the flying budget allows for such ‘escapades’. Consequently, when the average seaplane pilot arrives in the cockpit of a seaplane, they are financially settled, rather successful in their trade or profession and also experienced enough to have built their own opinion on things.
Exclusivity is rather well established in our industry, which can make entrance and existence for younger people (as a valuable partner) very hard. When a greenhorn enters the stage, reactions can range from smiles and cheers to downright embarrassment for the greenhorn. Questions may or may not be answered, the quality of answers may be affected by the mood of the person answering them, and is generally affected by what the individual considers important. It is entirely possible to learn how to fly seaplanes in Maine or Minnesota and never find out where else there may be another individual going through the same thing, just with access to different information. If we stay local and close our eyes to our surroundings, we tend to lose a lot of valuable input from others. Especially when it comes to advocacy and training, exclusivity and local focus is very dangerous – as it creates homogenous environments.
To counterbalance this phenomenon and to start working on getting seaplane pilots into a more communicative mood, the seaplaneforum.com was born. Worldwide online communication between seaplane pilots has been limited to non-existent. Many aviation associations have become corrupted with financial greed and lobby-ism power and no longer have the capacity to focus on small issues and people. Some associations remain small and powerless bottom feeders, but none of them really focus on Joe the Pilot. In the grand scheme of things, the opinion and perception of a single member or group of members does not really matter, as everyone hunts for the “BIG PICTURE”. In digital photography, we come to realize that a big picture is made of many pixels (dots) which all have to interact and match each others characteristics to make the picture look good. In a human communication environment, this cannot happen without talking to each other and exchanging opinions.
When we have opinions and communicate them, we take a risk. Maybe nobody will run us over with their dump truck, but in stating opinion and sharing thought we must be comfortable with the fact that not everyone will agree with what we have to say. Discourse is born and that can be very uncomfortable for people who have not been conditioned to welcome it and embrace it as something good. Many times I hear complaints about the rough tone in communication with fellow pilots. People simply LOVE to get offended. Pilot A shares his practice to shut the engine down completely to simulate engine failures, Pilot B disagrees and calls the behavior unsafe and irresponsible. Pilot A now has several options: Option 1: Yell “Whatever” and walk away – Option 2: “Ask for clarification and back up from Pilot B and engage in meaningful discourse, or; Option 3: Do nothing. After a little over 9 years in the forum moderator business, I am comfortable saying that the majority of seaplane pilots choose options 1 & 3 more often than not. “Normal” pilots are more used to discussion.
In my opinion this is not caused by ignorance, or arrogance, it is caused by a lack of exercise in communicating with each other. While many think their opinion doesn’t matter or that they cannot answer unless they are able to speak expertly on subjects, many are very afraid of embarrassment. When I ask members of my forum why they don’t post, I find that 75% of them enjoy to read what others write, but do not wish to engage in discussion. The fear of controversial discussion keeps them silent. How sad, considering what’s at stake!
An inviting environment is incredibly important to new member retention. Engaging people who have shared something with the group enables them to become part of it. Currently, we are burning the candle from both ends. The dinosaurs are dying out, while the youngsters are denied access. Very limited learning and exchange of opinion is allowed to happen. Next time you visit the seaplaneforum.com site and read around (because you’re interested) please take the time to ask the following questions:
- Does my reading here accomplish anything for this forum?
- Do I, or have I learned something on these pages that was valuable to me?
- If I became a member/ contributor to the group, are there questions I could ask or maybe even answer?
If the answer to any of the questions above is a yes, then we really need you to sign up and become part of the group.
- What on this forum interests me?
- Where could I possibly contribute? Help a newcomer? Answer regulatory questions? Share an advocacy concern? Start a picture contest? Vent about something?
If you find yourself as a member just looking to read for your own entertainment, start realizing that everything you read had to be written by someone. Someone who was willing to take the risk and put their piece of opinion out there. Someone who may or may not be comfortable with discourse but is there, trying to be part of the group, nevertheless. Unless you take them in, they will go belly up like a dead fish and disappear.
Communities are incredibly hard to build from scratch. Again, I am asking for help with it from those on our side. It cannot be done by me alone or just a handful of people.