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The Year 2018 In The Rearview Mirror

Rearview Mirror

January 2019 – Update From The Trenches – written by Jason J. Baker — As the malarkey spewers and bloviators sharpen their dulled pencils for yet another season filled with claims of glamour, which, these days is primarily accomplished by the use of promotional paper staining, I find myself reflecting a bit on this publications past year. A year I am thankful for, because it was tremendously fun and exciting, even though extreme and challenging at times. The most motivating part of 2018 was featuring lots of guest editorials and pictures from the very people who found us in their daily online travels and decided to become a contributing part of this thing.

We Published 430 Articles In 2018

That’s an average of 35 articles per month in which we tried to shine a light at all the things going on out there. I am half smiling about the fact that I have not yet sold this website profitably to someone who knows what the hell they are doing and how to make a halfway worthwhile effort out of it. Where are these Chinese investors when you need them? Financially and in terms of events, the tongue is definitely hanging out and I am often rattling like a 65 year old Beaver, eyes crossed at the top of the mountain goat in front of my cockpit. But hell, this thing is ticking and I am feeling motivated to keep on climbing. That logo still means something!

Not Much Glamour And Glory

I live the fairly reclusive life of a laptop- pianist. You know… one of these bad people who are solely to blame for the demise of print magazines. My Steinway & Sons is a 7 year old Toshiba laptop that has little indentures on its most-used keys. Its the letters which allow for the formation of the word “Seaplane” which have the deepest dents. As you probably know, pianists practice a lot to get better, often to the dismay of those who live with them and sometimes to the dismay of those who just barely manage to avoid throwing rotten eggs at them.

To make my life easier, Toshiba has put letters and numbers on my piano’s keys to help me remember which ones to hit.

Such is the life of a online journalist and anyone who has written for a living. Most of these people know just how hard a human skull can slam on the keys when the connection between the cerebellum and the fingertips suddenly gets severed. I hear this supposedly happens to the best? Still, even hapless amateurs like myself receive a compliment or two every once in a while from people who couldn’t tell any better. Lets assume that the compliments still outnumber the criticism I receive. Maybe that’s just because people realize that they have almost as much power over what this website features and brings, as myself? We’re reader focused!

Not Winning Any Awards?

While I am probably not one of the nominees for the prestigious Flying Meatball Award for most breathtaking Aviation writing and journalism, it continues to delight my dark mind just how “enthusiastically” our readership has exploded during the last year. We straight-out more than doubled our visitor count during 2018 and added countries we previously did not reach to the mix.

Even though I see the rolling dark clouds of a storm coming in 2019, I still enjoy what I do tremendously, because I have found a way to make my living with things I deeply care for and love to feature. While converting ones passion into a business is to be treated with the highest care, I find myself surrounded by many good aviation people who encourage me to keep on going. Still, doing this passion thing for a living opens the door for burnouts and more often than not, being the only person on the table not getting paid, can be frustrating. I am sure my writing still reflects these frustrations from time to time.

The Little Website That Could

Just three years ago, Chris Buckner and I began to scream from the rooftops that the renaissance of seaplanes and flying boats was unstoppable. We took a deep breath to survive the promised water-boarding and waited for the annoyed and grumpy wise-men to stop huffing and puffing about how we were destined to fail in a big ball of fire. Then we went into the trenches of an industry that creeks and squeaks under its dusty surface, out of public view, exclusively hidden under a dome of hazed glass and hindered by its own pessimistic attitudes.

It took us a while to find open minded partners. But we found them and these days we have more young and upbeat people and thinkers and doers around us than ever. People who seem to believe the same and are working diligently to kill status quo. Just half a decade ago, people were absolutely certain that we were the last of the breed of dying dinosaurs.

2018 Saw Many Positive Developments

During a recent Facebook chat with Timothy Buchanan from Super Petrel USA, he wrote: “This is going to be a huge year for seaplanes!” He’s not alone with that prediction. Being afforded the vantage point of slowly morphing this website into the realities of being connected with more and more people in the global seaplane market, I get to talk to a ton of people all over the place. By and large, most of them fire full steam ahead.

Image: Courtesy of Timothy Buchanan, Super Petrel, USA

There are lots of things happening in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. India seems to pull in the right direction, finally. People are out there starting businesses, luxury resorts realize the uniqueness of travel by seaplane. Concepts are being developed in almost every corner of the world and many investment dollars are being sought to make things happen. There are people building and selling new seaplanes and flying boats. Lets be mindful about the fact that we are a tiny niche of aviation that has almost been regulated out of existence in many parts of the world and that was said to be in dire straits.

But: “Enthusiasm Doesn’t Pay The Bills”

The boss of a company who pulled their sponsorship from us early in 2018 delivered the quote of the year. I sometimes repeat it in my mind when yet another breathless wall of text, full of exaggeration and marketing fluff and hyperbole arrives for our readers to “consume”. I have started to repeat it loudly when I receive event invites from people who think I am some sort of world jetting executive. “Enthusiasm doesn’t pay the bills”. I have to admit, that this one single sentence taught me a hefty and harsh lesson, after nearly 20 years in the Seaplane industry. Even though I’ve spent my whole life somehow connected to general aviation, it left me speechless.

Just 9 months later I can attest: Enthusiasm sure doesn’t pay my bills. But its the darn only thing we have to sustain and grow this industry and that’s why I kept going, wading deeper into uncharted territory than before. You see, its not the data and not the clicks, not the likes on Facebook and not the email addresses we buy, which sell airplanes and floats or any product or to make a website popular. Its simply how anyone, company or association or even a small newcomer news outlet manages to position itself in people’s mind. Would you say we are positive and future oriented?

Can we capture the fun and passion of our surroundings and touch people, or are these all just tools of fluff to overcome reasonable objections when desperately trying to sell our product or association memberships? A healthy industry works together, helps and looks out for each other and most importantly, it communicates openly and honestly. We don’t stiff each other, we pay for what we agreed to pay and we treat those who surround us with courtesy. What goes around comes around. We don’t lie and we treat others with respect.

Enthusiasm is the darn only thing that floats the countless seaplane training outfits who convert land-lubbers into flying knights of the seas. Maybe some extra smart business people out there will remember these words when they finally fire that glorious new age marketing agency and return to the very roots of how aviation came about. Maybe some will conclude and come to appreciate and value what makes this industry tick today!

So I admit: Enthusiasm is what runs this show, folks. Enthusiasm and hope for a better industry, more seaplanes killing bugs and more pilots experiencing rewarding and well paying careers which make them want to stick around as one of the many “long term players” who raised this industry in the first place. Being privileged enough to experience the exhilaration and sense of adventure that only seaplanes and flying boats can bring to our lives, should not make us arrogant and ignorant. We’ve been there and it didn’t work. I for one aim not to let paper thin advertising budgets kill the only reliable daily source of Water Flying News. Neither will political strong-arming.

As always, thanks for reading and following along on this continuing and developing story of raising the first ever SEAPLANE MAGAZINE from thin air! Sincere thanks to the team of writers and those who take the time to send me a short heads up when I have hit the wrong key or missed some news we should have had! I am always one email away for feedback from our readers or for inquiries about how to support this website.

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