I was curious to know what a normal (non aeroplane obsessed) person knows about aviation, so I asked the artist and actor Penny Klein. This is directly from her memory with no research, fact-checking or googling.
“I don’t know much about aviation, but I know the word aviation is to do with aeroplanes. I imagine the root of the word is ‘aviate’ or ‘av’, and is something to do with being in the air. I would hazard a guess that to ‘aviate’ is to ‘go in the air’. Planes are best known, of course, for doing exactly that. It can’t be that long since aviation has been going, as a topic, as planes are not that old.
“Land rules don’t apply and the little nuts just don’t soak up all that booze.”
I reckon they were invented as some kind of weapon, and leisurely flying came a lot later. I think it must have taken quite a long time for people to work out how far planes can go up in the air, so they don’t collide with the edge of the o-zone layer. I can’t say with certainty that the discovery of the o-zone layer came before the invention of planes, but I think it probably did. There is bound to have been a plane that went too high. There is also probably a long and documented history of planes that went too low. The thing is, it depends on how many people are on the plane. Small light aircraft can do all sorts of tricks in the sky that you would never see larger planes do. I don’t think anyone would even try, because the size and scale is just all wrong. I get a funny feeling just thinking about it.
Aviation as an industry has probably done a lot over the years to help regulate against anyone taking dangerous risks with aeroplane flying. And of course it is hard to hide aeroplane experiments, because they take place in the sky which is practically impossible to hide from people. I don’t really want to go into it, but aviation research probably has a lot to say about plane crashes. It probably talks about it in quite an unemotional way, because aviation is more of a science. So it would be looking at the scientific and engineering factors involved, things like balance and velocity. I know that planes have wheels on them for when they are on land, and I imagine aviation theory has a lot to say about this. I wonder if the wheels on aeroplanes used to be a lot bigger in the past. Aviation history would be a good place to turn for this kind of information. It would also be a good place to turn if you wanted a comprehensive history of international flight patterns. For instance where were the first flights to and from? Why? Aviation historians must get asked this kind of thing a lot, and I’m sure they are happy to divulge.
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The aviation industry has probably been unwittingly involved in its fair share of scandals and court cases, as aeroplane flights are often mixed up in nefarious tabloid worthy affairs. Blowjobs in the toilets, Xanax and champagne, smuggling, bigotry, that kind of thing. It is hard to tell whether a lot of this is just salacious gossip or whether there is something more orchestrated going on. Land rules don’t apply and the little nuts just don’t soak up all that booze, if you know what I mean. For that reason, in the eye of the public, the aviation industry tends to have a bit of a shady side. Perhaps this is reinforced by the idea of aviator sunglasses, which seem to denote something a bit depraved. Certain pop culture references do a lot to back this image up, which makes me wonder if there is some kind of agenda. Whatever is going on, you don’t work in the aviation industry and stay innocent.
That said, I think it is a serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’re talking huge machines here, that carry a lot of people and also ‘cargo’. Cargo is the stuff that people put in the aeroplanes, down in the bottom bit, and contains all kinds of things. It is down here where you can have aerosols and sharp objects. I would imagine the aviation department of any major airline has some stories to tell about cargo.
Aviation as a subject has probably expanded over the last couple of decades as planes have become more sophisticated, and more people can fly, and as there has been more research into automated flying. I know that planes still have pilots, but for how long? There are probably aviation specialists who are more interested in helicopters, I can’t even imagine what they get up to.
There will undoubtedly be those who are stuck in the past, and only like lecturing about wooden planes, before they had ovens and fridges on them. There are undoubtedly disagreements about fuel type and tail shapes, and let us not forget design. Airline graphics are a big business, and I don’t think for a second that aviationists are on the fence about that Ryan Air logo!
All in all I have a lot of respect for anyone involved in the field, and I’d be interested to learn more about how it works and what it really means to say as a young child to your career advisor: “I’ll do aviation, please.’‘