I was wandering through some of the archived stories in some of my favorite blogs from the past month and came across a nugget from Adam Webster’s Aviation Marketing Intelligence blog.
A post on how nuts we are in aviation.
Adam uses the example of a Pilatus PC-6 obsessed pilot who would literally do anything, anywhere — just to get the chance to fly a PC-6. Yes, that’s the ugly STOL plane that can be found in the movie Air America… the one that looks like it stole aerodynamic theory from John Deere.
Anywhere means exactly that in this post — the PC-6 is used to get around in some of the most inhospitable areas — the jungles, the war torn, the mountainous. Basically places where the closest Hilton is not just miles away, but time zones away.
I’d sell my first born for a gig flying a Supermarine Spitfire… but that really doesn’t count, right?
Regardless, it is a perfect example of how devoted many of us are to flying. A devotion that sometimes makes the most logically minded people make decisions that escape logic.
I mean, how many people out there in the non-aviation community would consider paying $120 an hour to rent a plane and fly to a greasy spoon restaurant at a far-flung airport just to have breakfast and then return? How about commercial pilots that take a $20,000 a year job flying as a first officer on a Dash-8 when they have a $500 monthly payment to repay student loans plus living expenses?
Yes, we in aviation will go to extremes to show our commitment to the sky.
But we are certainly not alone in our professed passions. From Alpacas to IROC-Z’s, there are committed devotees to various hobbies and professions in any given area. It’s something like tribalism — we identify ourselves through the people we associate ourselves with and our pursuits are something of a totem of ours.
Any devoted Harley-Davidson owner will certainly say that the motorcycle is a part of their family. It is as precious as a living thing and the hours of maintenance and care shown in addition to the hours riding on it establishes a connection that truly personifies an inanimate object.
And it is that connection — that commitment, that prompts Harley riders to display their passion on their skin. Tattoos are certainly the embodiment of the total (and seemingly permanent) devotion to their bike. Bikers have been associated with tattoos for as long as I can remember and vice versa.
We in aviation have the same kind of commitment to an inanimate object as well. We are drawn to the freedom of the sky, the smell of Avgas or Jet-A wafting from the engine when we taxi, the challenge of an unfamiliar airport, or the excitement of exploring a new place made possible by the plane.
We talk to our planes and nurture them through the toughest of times. How many times have you almost had a full-blown conversation with your plane on a long cross-country or on a flight over water? The plane is our best friend.
So why is it that we are so restrained when it comes to displaying our passion for aviation? We’ll populate our houses with airplane photos or art, customize our license plate, or embroider anything in our possession with the N-Number of our plane.
But so very few of us have tattoos celebrating our love of aviation. Why is that?
It can’t be due to our fear of pain — I mean, have you ever worn a David Clark headset on a cross country of more than 2 hours? Now that’s pain.
It certainly can’t be our fear of permanence — some of our debt loads and loans on planes (and lessons) may outlive us! Along those same lines, it can’t be the high price of a good artist — I mean, have you seen the price of gas these days?
Some may say that aviation doesn’t have a heritage of rebellious behavior — but how do you explain the barnstormers or the air racers?
So what is it then? Did we inherit a conservative nature from the airline pilot generation? Did the morays of a professional appearance at all times on the job put a fear of any dermal expression in our heads?
Certainly a person can have a professional appearance and still be able to have some personal adornment. I know of no airline that requires pilots to take their shirts off as part of the job — so what is the deal with something on a persons back or upper arm that will never be seen by the customer.
I am a pilot and aviation enthusiast and have a good amount of tattoo work myself — every bit covered by anything that can be considered to be a uniform — a polo shirt and shorts even.
Every one of my pieces is connected to flying — be it an actual airplane or even mythology. I have made a commitment to my passion that all the work that is and will be on my body will be related to aviation like this.
But it’s so rare to find others like me out there — those of us who love flying so much that we’d take it to this level.
I am interested in hearing the thoughts of other pilots and aviation folks on the questions I posed above.
I’d love to hear of and see tattoos devoted to aviation and flying and specifically, I am interested in seeing any general aviation or airline related tattoos. As you’ll see on Tattoos In Flight, there are a lot of warbird and military aviation tattoos, but little on the civil side. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to drop a line below and leave your thoughts!