A Flight of Re-Discovery
Mike O’Neill – September 2013
Somewhere around the age of 14, I came to own a balsa stick and tissue covered model airplane kit. It was a Guillow’s World War I biplane and with it I entered a whole new world. I was totally intrigued by the construction plans, the kit building process, and the resulting flight attempts with this model airplane.
Thus began a lifetime love of both aviation and model building. Throughout the remainder of high school, I delved into both worlds. I discovered control line models and spent many hours learning how to build and fly my airplanes. Between my junior and senior years, I took flight lessons in a Cessna 150 from a short gravel airstrip until my money for more lessons ran out. I had accumulated a grand total of 8 hours of flight time! My desire was to become either a military or commercial pilot. However, that desire was thwarted by the discovery that I had no depth perception.
So after high school graduation, I joined the US Marine Corps with an aviation guarantee and became an Aircraft Structural Mechanic. Upon graduation from aircraft mechanics school, I was honored to be selected to serve the duration of my 4-year enlistment as a mechanic with the Presidential Helicopter Squadron (HMX-1) taking care of the presidents own, Marine One!
College followed the military with every intention to continue on with a career in aviation. I was able to feed the duel aviation and modeling fires during college with a part time job at an FBO (Fixed Based Operator) at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport while continuing to dabble in model airplane building and flying as both time and finances allowed.
After college graduation, I managed to secure a job as an Operations Analyst and then as a Work Order Processing Supervisor with Atlantic Aviation Corporation (AAC) at their corporate headquarters and aircraft completion center in Wilmington, Delaware. This was corporate aviation at it’s finest with all aspects of aviation including sales, charter, FBO, and completion center operations being represented at the one facility. And it was here that my first forays into computers began as I designed and helped implement the first computer based work order processing system used by Atlantic.
By 1980, my modeling activities were greatly curtailed due to the triple whammy of job, family, and financial responsibilities and constraints. No longer able to afford the build and crash approach to model planes, I effectively put the hobby on the back burner as other activities took priority. As time went on, I turned to model railroading and model rocketry as more affordable means of scratching the model building itch.
My professional aviation career ended in 1986 due to the effects that the recession of the early 1980’s had on the corporate aviation market. I saw the writing on the wall and departed AAC in 1986 to begin what I hoped would be a more financially lucrative career in computers and Information Technology. That career has lasted 27 years to date.
My every intention over the intervening years was to someday get back into model aircraft building and flying as soon as the day-to-day responsibilities and financial pressures of life allowed. As most of us know, waiting for that day to come can be an endless wait.
In January of this year, two events occurred that relit both the aviation and model aircraft building fires within me. With my 59th birthday looming just a month away, I began to reflect on my own mortality ending with the realization that I still had a lot of model building and flying to do and less and less time to do it! Then, a random Facebook post by my old high school flying buddy was the spark that lit the fuse and the fires began burning hot (here’s to you, Frankie!).
And so 2013 has been filled with me trying to reconnect with my life long loves from where I left them so many years ago. 35 years have passed since I was actively engaged in the world of model aircraft building. I’m trying to pick up from where I left off and bring my 1978 mind-set up to 2013. So much has changed in the hobby and there is so much to explore and discover. But at the same time, I don’t want to lose all there was from my 1970’s modeling experience that I loved so much so, to some extent, my model building will probably always be rooted in that time period.
And while full scale aviation is no longer my career field, I still love the birds! So I have started to explore and discover opportunities to see and be involved with full scale airplanes once again.
In the course of all this re-discovery, it is apparent to me that my interests are varied and far-flung. If it flies or goes up into the air, I am pretty much interested in it. When it comes to aviation and aerospace there are so many avenues to explore and discover. From rubber band powered free flight models to SpaceX rockets, I am interested in it all!
As I began this new period of re-discovery, I began chronicling my activities, discoveries, and thoughts in a series of emails to a few of my friends and family members. My brother finally noted that there might be others who would also be interested in what I was writing about. He suggested that I start a blog as a means of sharing my experiences with other like-minded aviation and model building folks.
So I have launched FlyBoyz into the aviation blog-o-sphere to see if it will take wing and fly with the other birds. I don’t yet know where this flight may lead but I do know it will be exciting! Aviation and model building have brought me many years of enjoyment throughout my life and I hope this blog will allow you to share in some of that continued enjoyment.
I invite you to join me on my flight of re-discovery!