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Tue, Feb 26, 2019

Barnstorming: WWBD*

*’What Would Bob Do?’

‘If You Want To Know Someone’s Heart…You Have To Know What Breaks It.’

(Attributed to part of a conversation with George HW Bush, 41st President of the United States)

Commentary/Opinion/Analysis By ANN CEO/Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell

There is this guy… a kind soul… named George Conn.

Each year he reaches out to call me on my Birthday, to wish me another happy trip around the Sun, and let me know he’s grateful for the help I tried to render him MANY years ago… even though I pretty much failed the guy. Mind you; I don’t think the failure matters much to him… I think he simply appreciates the fact that someone listened to him, verified a problem he was having, and then took up his cause… even though, ultimately, I did him very little good.

George had been screwed over by an ultralight manufacturer quite a few years ago, sent them money for a plane he never got, and wasn’t willing to walk away from it all without a fight… and neither were we. We got involved, did our best, and over the course of many years and a lot of effort, we ultimately failed to get this less than honest ultralight builder to give Mr. Conn what he paid for. But George never forgot that we tried, tried hard, and that we did so for him and for hundreds of other people who brought their problems to us over the years.

George is just one of those that we fought for… and just one of the reasons that we keep fighting each day… to do hard, honest, necessary work and represent the industry the best we can…

Because, if not us… then who?

The scary part is that over the course of 23 years of Aero-News and many years of aero-journalism before that, we encountered and advocated on behalf of thousands of Georges… and Georgettes… men and women who reached out, needed questions answered, or needed help in resolving an issue as well as the knowledge that at least one aviation news organization took the concept of real journalism and real aviation advocacy seriously.

We did our best to help them all…

Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t… but every time, we cared.

A great, great, deal. That never changed. Not even now.

We did our best… but now it’s time to ramp up and radically upgrade what our best is… what we do, how we do it, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves… with your guidance, assistance, and support.

And we have to keep trying… because of the care we feel for you, for our responsibility to you and for the blatant fact that so few seem to care about doing the right thing and telling the truth… so we must be sure to do so, to our utmost. Or the industry will continue to erode to its destruction.

OK… on to this day’s missive... and yes, Folks… it’s been a while…

First… for those of you that have reached out over the last few months… who have called to say Hi, to ask questions, or weigh in on what we’re doing… thanks!

Before I go any farther; I want to extend the greetings, care, and genuine affection my wife, my crew, and I feel for you, the struggling aviators still trying to keep aviation alive and let you know we are doing our best to support you every way we can.

In particular, though, I want to extend my thanks for a rather nice few days in which I visited the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase (and the few days we did Sebring, as well) and encountered so many of you who wanted to introduce yourselves, make comments on the industry—and ANN, and to offer support. Mind you; this is (thankfully) nothing out of the ordinary when venturing out into aviation territory, but for some reason, this bit of positive reinforcement came about in great numbers, and with great sincerity… and it truly made me proud of what the ANN crew does, and what we intend to keep doing in the future.

Most important was the immediate and informal way so many approached me… no need for an introduction, per se… because reading us/serving you has established a bond that allows for immediate familiarity and kinship—and I truly appreciate and value that. That feels right to me.

This is especially true after a year that had more than its share of challenges.

The aviation industry game has been difficult for a while now, but recent trends like the abysmal way that most aero-associations denigrate or belittle independent media, the tough environment for sponsorship and advertising, the declining spirit of the aviation community, and the fact that the aviation industry is not going as well as the economy suggests it should, haven’t made things easy to navigate.

And then, there’s life… we’re still dealing with the effects of the vicious brutality of the Cirrus war, the loss of some great friends has been pretty hard to bear, an unexpected medical issue (now nicely resolved), the bankruptcy of One Aviation cost us dearly (many tens of thousands—which we are unlikely to recover), and worst of all, the death of my Dad.

Losing my Pop was tough… and being well-prepared for it seemed to matter not a whit… it still shook me to the core and missing his presence is a daily difficulty that shows no sign of abatement.

BUT… growing up, I found that my Pop wouldn’t put up with many of my excuses for tough times and, now, neither should you. One of the things he noted in his appreciation of who I was, was my unwillingness to quit… that I was the guy that never gave up… a claim he repeated a number of times over the years. And now, I have to still live up to it… Big Time.

The art and craft of running Aero-News has been an interesting exercise in organization. But, it’s one that comes with a need for great/critical self-examination… While we broke the mold when we created ANN, and created the whole new industry of comprehensive online aviation media reporting, we’ve been copied so long and so often that the unique properties of what made ANN so pivotal to communicating what was important and newsworthy about aviation, means that it is long past time that we broke our own mold. Not just once, but many times—over and over again. And, it’s not just that we need to get radical again… we need to make a science of it.

We can go along doing what we’ve always done (though certain aspects will never change—especially the need to be honest with you all-no matter how unpleasant the truth may be), or we can figure out what needs to be done to truly RAISE THE BAR – and then, do it.

But… in a world that has too many people willing to shut others up for speaking truth to power, the way forward can be rocky, indeed. And yet, few seem willing to confront this issue.

It’s not just that aviation journalism needs honest ethical treatment… which it is NOT getting from too many aero-writers (I won’t even allow myself to call some of them journalists), it’s that truly independent media is being strangled and there are damned few of us left willing to take on the BS and wade through the hassles, interference, and even threats, to get the job done. Yes, it’s difficult… but if we’ve proven anything, we’ve proven the necessity of it all.

The villains are many.

...Associations that see independent media as competition for limited sponsor dollars and are willing to kill it off due to their arrogant greed and ethical myopia, bad companies and players doing bad business, errant general media beating down aviation at every turn, companies that seek puff pieces rather than honest critiques and narratives (and punish those that won’t provide them), aviation companies that have lost or never had the ability to reach out and communicate themslves to the aero-world and then tell everyone how bad business is--when they are the reason, the loss of a sense of community and belonging—and the once-special bond that brought all flyers together, dishonest entities who interfere with/threaten/harass those trying to get the truth out to the aero-masses… and the sad ignorance of an aviation community that not only doesn’t know the difference between honest editorial and hype—but often doesn’t care. 

Most of all... the spirit of aviation is in serious decline and unless we find a way to wake  it up and renew it it in a sustainable way, we're in for even bigger trouble than we've seen thus far.

Over the years, we’ve paid a hell of a price to be truthful with you… we’ve had to fight off baseless legal interference, we been threatened, harassed, assaulted, ‘swatted,’ libeled, slandered, and victimized more ways than I can tell you… and yet, please notice, we haven’t quit… and the only ways we’ve been slowed from our course of action, has been the result of having to reallocate resources to fend this nonsense off.

And we do this because of the guidance and strength we have received from so many of you and a few special flyers, in particular… especially Bob Hoover, who never failed to support our moral compass when it was obvious that we were wading into tough territory for all the right reasons. I miss talking to him, and the confidence he bestowed in me with his friendship and encouragement… but even two years after his passing, I still get a boost every time I think of his approval of what we did… and how we did it.

“What Would Bob Do?” has become a standard for our conduct and a powerful support mechanism when our spiritual energy levels are running low.

But again, please note that we haven’t quit. And we don’t want/intend to.

For quite a while, we’ve had a Master Plan, called Aero-Verse, which really pushes the envelope… and is the most aggressive concept we’ve ever considered undertaking. It’s radical, complicated, not cheap and definitely not anything you’ve seen/experienced before… but we believe it’s the logical next step in what we need to do to shake things up.

BUT… it would take resources we just don’t have right now… so we need to get healthy, make some preliminary steps to start getting ahead, and build a foundation for what we hope will come. 

And this is where we want to reengage with each of you.

There is more to say… about what we’ve had to endure and the problems that occur when you tell the unpopular truth… and in an industry that tends to hide from anything remotely resembling veracity… but that needs to wait for another time.

For now; we need to get your attention and let you know that the time for playing this game, more or less solo, is over.

We have some exciting things to say in the next few days, a greater and more important mission than ever before (and not just one), and a burning desire to reengage with as many of you as we can. We’re not the answer to all of aviation’s many ills, but we know what direction(s) to take and we’re more than willing to start plowing through the morass that has enveloped much of the aero-biz. More important, we’re still as passionate as we have ever been… and we want to forge ahead, with as much company and reinforcement as we can muster.

I want to make a deal with you… give us a chance… to take all that we’ve learned, all that we’ve done, and the clear knowledge of what NEEDS to be done… and HELP us do it.

BUT -- Do not sit back and watch… do not just read us, and go on to something else… get INVOLVED… join us… be part of an effort that seeks to transform the struggling world of aviation and allow us all to grow, innovate and retake a place in the world with vigor, promise and purpose. Recrafting a sustainable future for aviaion requires involvement, participation, synergy and commitment. And it needs YOU.

With your aid and support, we can do much and in the next installment of this missive, I’ll fill you in on what we want to do for a start, why we want to do it, and what effect we hope to have -- short and long-term.

FMI: ANN Readers... Your Thoughts/Comments/Criticism?

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