Free is the operative word in freelance writing and reporting. Free to accept or reject a gig. Free to sniff around on my own for a yarn I might pitch to an editor whose boss gets nothing for free. Cheap, but never free. And most importantly, I’m free of office politics, paperwork, evaluations and talks with bean-counters and human resources.
In short, I escaped reasons to retire, and regained joy from work I do. I can freelance for any sort of publication, but my preference is aerospace, based on personal history and living in the Aerospace Valley.
During 2022, Aerotech News and Review published around half a hundred of my bylined articles. Topics ranged from features to covering in-person and Zoom meetings and events, to pursuing investigative leads on public policy questions involving aerospace. Given its advertiser-supported monthly print and online digital immediacy, readers get the best of both worlds without hitting paywalls.
Nowhere was that innovation better demonstrated than the evening of the B-21 unveiling when Aerotech delivered a complete and informationally and visually more comprehensive report online report in less than two hours after the ceremony. Having the privilege of covering that history and a Nov. 30 advance package was a career cap, thanks to Editor Stuart Ibberson and the Aerotech News team.
While it’s common to see people with industry backgrounds writing about aerospace, Aerotech has the distinction of being a hometown information source with a global readership. On matters dealing with science and technology research and development and manufacturing, finding answers typically involves a local call.
Personal experience, skillsets, tools and sources explore the many places where flight meets human interest and human and institutional behavior, for good or ill.
On the brighter side of 2022, self-assigned beats included promotion of all things associated with the Flight Test Historical Foundation’s Edwards AFB Museum and the Foundation’s Gathering of Eagles fund-raiser. The story-count was 10. The long-awaited return of the Edwards AFB Open House and Air Show was in second place with six by-lined articles.
One highlight was contributing a series of articles on military and civil warbird museums in the desert and coastal Southwest, including features on historic aircraft restoration at such locations as YANKS Air Museum in Chino, and the Commemorative Air Force Southern California Wing in Camarillo.
Favorite human stories and profiles of the men and women who put the face on aerospace included such memorable personalities as ‘Ms. STING,’ the flight test engineer who ignited a teenage audience’s aerospace ambitions at Antelope Valley College, and Jessica Zarley, a young volunteer for the March 30 Welcome Home Vietnam Vets Day event, who shared her Coast Guard experience Fighting Pirates on the Somali Main. Remember Capt. Phillips from the movie?
Assignments took me to Veterans and Memorial Day observances, and to my home computer screen to cover online regional technical conferences and seminars of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and other groups. The academic world’s challenge to stress Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers for new generations became a regular task, from elementary schools to Antelope Valley College’s innovative aerospace programs.
A news correspondent’s greatest asset is informed sources. And in 2022 I was blessed by sources from the local chapters of the AIAA and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP). A phone call in May led me to a banquet room in Lancaster where flight test professionals gathered to meet with legendary SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Bennie just months before his death.
Aerospace journalism provides endless opportunities to rediscover history and people who made it, like visionary aerospace engineering genius Burt Rutan. In September, I was privileged to report that the creator of Voyager and SpaceShipOne launched a technological revolution in publishing. Aerotech reported that Rutan has launched a living online autobiography.
A month earlier I happened upon the tale of the first B-2 bombers from March Field in the 1930s, credited for life-saving missions of mercy in the American Southwest.
But aviation and space news is serious business, involving public policy questions, regulatory issues, economics, public opinion, politics from city hall to Washington, D.C., and conflicting interests. Like the StarWars FORCE, news has a Light Side and a Dark Side. Legacy mass media is typically uninformed or misinformed on many aspects of aviation, as occurred in its reporting of the Dallas Airshow midair-collision in November. Aerotech immediately exposed big media’s out of date, biased and inaccurate reporting on air shows and public safety.
At the local and regional levels, Aerotech is today the only publication paying regular attention to general aviation airport trends in Southern California. Little noticed in 2022, except in reports from Aerotech News and Review, was diminished presence and attention to the aerospace industry at local and regional economics meetings and conferences.
The “Review” part of Aerotech’s name comes into play, not as opposition to such matters as development of an inland port next to an air and space port, but as a call for caution and careful deliberation surrounding the protection of an existing economic resource.