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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Aviation & The Search for the Meaning of Life

My name's Ron Lucock & I like aeroplanes. I like looking at them in magazines. I look at them on the internet. I even have fantasies about them.

I'm not into cars. I don't smoke, drink alcohol or play any sport.

I've never actually grabbed a plane by the controls & flown one in the air. Like most people, my life is the product of the resources & opportunities allotted me. Some people might say they make their own opportunities. I say good luck to them. Some people, either by their choices, or through no fault of their own whatsoever, don't even get the opportunity to create an opportunity. Some just have to play the cards they're dealt.

My thing is aeroplanes. The only problem is, I don't know why. And because I don't know why I like aeroplanes, I feel somewhat silly most of the time, even embarrassed.

And then those closest to me will tell me I'm silly for feeling silly about it. They tell me I should just accept & embrace it. You'd think I was coming out or something.

But I'm intimidated by what I don't understand about myself. I don't have to understand big things, like the universe, or gravity, or teenagers. There's so much in nature that I can't understand, yet it absolutely fascinates me. But when it comes to me, I expect to know what's going on. Yet I don't, & it drives me mad.

I can't think of any one event that could have possibly spawned a life-long interest in aviation. My father often talks of the time he took me to Sydney Airport as a little boy, where a replica of Sir Charles Kingsford Smiths' "Southern Cross" hung from the terminal ceiling in honour of the airport's namesake. "Look daddy, it's got wiiiiings!!", I'm told I excitedly yelled. But I can't say that's what got me hooked on aeroplanes. I obviously already knew what a wing was after all.

I'm a man of faith. Is my interest in aviation a gift from God? Are we "given" interests? Do they come pre-installed at conception? I would gladly give up my day job to be a pilot for organisations like Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF). But at 45 & no pilots' licence, that aint gonna happen. I think my wife & kids might have something to say about that too. So why was I given this gift, if that's what it is?

Are we given interests purely to have something to be interested in? To have something to do? Is that partly what makes us different from animals & robots? And if man was made in God's image, does that mean God has interests outside of things like salvation for all mankind & the end of the world? 

They're fanatics! Check 'em out.
Alone & isolated, I feel like a complete twit sometimes for being interested in aviation. Then I go to an airshow, or see planespotters at airports, or think about how much money is involved in this industry. Or sometimes it just takes a post from "Aircraft Fanatics" in my Facebook news feed, to remind me I'm not alone. We are legion, for we are many.

So to my fellow enthusiasts, be you armchair or professional, thank you, & may you keep & enjoy the passion, excitement & thrill of what you do. Whether you're making Airfix kits, listening to ATC scanners, planespotting, Tumbling, blogging, or flying for a living or in service to your country's defense, can I encourage you to follow your dream, & keep doing what you love. We might not know why we do it, but do it anyway.


Friday, 23 August 2013

100 Happy Virgins

Firstly let me apologise to anyone who actually follows my blogs. I haven't written much in a couple of months; been too distracted playing airline empires.

But tonight I return, not with any great pearls of aviation wisdom, perception or crap, but just to celebrate with Virgin Australia on the delivery of their 100th Boeing 737.

I know, I know, lots of airlines fly 100 B737's or more. Some fly two or three times more. But Australia is not a big country. Well, actually it is. It's about the same size as the USA, or you could fit pretty much all of western Europe into it.

But our entire national population is only about 22 million. The United Kingdom has three times that number & yet you could fit England, Scotland & Wales into the Australian state of Victoria. And Victoria is one of our smallest states. Let's just say we like to spread ourselves out. Having a great big desert in the middle of your country also helps.

Virgin Australia started with only two leased B737's, only $10m in the bank (courtesy of Mr Branson), & a lot of balls (also borrowed from Mr Branson). They started at a time when Qantas & Ansett dominated Australian domestic aviation in a cosy duopoly, while others who tried to break into it neither lived long nor prospered. Then known as Virgin Blue, their motto was "keeping the air fair".

September 11 2001 was a terrible day for humanity, & the flow-on effects put many airlines into bankruptcy. But what few in Australia knew was that the very day before, September 10 2001, Australia's 2nd biggest & equally iconic airline, Ansett Australia, was already bankrupt. It's owners, Air New Zealand no less, were offering it for a song to Qantas; literally handing them complete domination of the Australian skies. Qantas said they would think about it & get back to them. The next day they decided it wasn't a good day to buy an
airline. And whilst Australians, like the rest of the world, sat glued to their news broadcasts, another lesser story but closer to home suddenly broke - Ansett was gone.

Whilst it was no time to gloat, Virgin Blue realised it had been suddenly thrown a break. And whilst Qantas scrambled to find additional capacity, Virgin Blue humbly stepped up to the plate. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Congratulations, Virgin Australia, on your evolution into a trusted, quality airline. Congratulation in succeeding where many had failed. Congratulations on the success of your engaged, customer-focused management & staff, on the proliferation of your brand, & on your growing network into the regional, low cost & premium airline markets.

Live long & prosper. You've earned it.

The photographs presented here are from Virgin Australia's Facebook page & used in full credit, respect & recognition of their uber awesomeness.