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SARS-CoV2 / COVID-19
Some pilots have chosen not to fly, and others are discouraging postings about flying activity. Since I have continued to do both, a few have inquired about my rational, so I'll try to explain. I'm not trying to lobby or convert anyone, I'm simply sharing my perspective because I've been asked to do so.
It is my perception that the SARS-CoV2 Virus is a serious medical issue that should be collectively addressed, but with regional consideration. It is also my perception that our human culture has evolved toward a sense of entitlement, risk adversity, and unreasonable expectations.
I have striven to adopt a number of principles to assist in my guidance, inclinations, and life choices. One of those principles is to focus my efforts and limited resources on things I can affect and avoid excessively dwelling on stuff that is beyond my ability to influence.
We are continuing to evolve as a culture. My parents accepted stuff that my kids won't consider tolerating and visa-versa. One area of evolution is how we get our information. During WW1 and 2 many young men were excited to join the action. Vietnam was the first televised war and our country revolted. Personal computers ushered in more independent access to information. By Desert Storm our soldiers were equipped with state of the art equipment, and then smart phones and social media invaded our group decision methodology.
A virus sweeping over populations is not a new occurrence. It has been re-occurring since before the dawn of mankind. What has changed this time around is our smart phone influence and the ability of social media to affect group psyche and what we focus on. Most phone apps are advertising driven with the primary compensation metric striving go get us to consume more content by feeding us more of what we think we want. The underlying algorithms will steer us toward more of whatever we click on. Objectivity has always been a challenge, but in today's age objectivity is evaporating and only attainable via a conscious effort to break out of the program algorithms, limit our sugar high, and make an effort to review alternative perspectives.
During this pandemic event, the social media and YouTube algorithms are steering us toward consequences that will be far more damaging than the virus itself. At some level, I see this as unavoidable so I have resisted my inclination to invest energy into a futile attempt to redirect the trend, but in this particular case related to my flying and my posting about flying I feel it might be helpful to our local community if I explain the rational behind my actions. A number of pilots have inquired about my mindset, so rather than address individual request I'm posting my evolving perception.
Our country is not homogenous. What works for high density concentrations of people is often not effective in more rural areas. An example would be ride share services like Uber and Lyft which work great in downtown Houston but not so good in Ojai or Piru. The vast majority of people in NY city don't own a car, but life without a car in So Cal can be limiting. Urban drivers prefer electric vehicles but farmers need pickup trucks.
NY city is a high density location that presents an increased threat of spreading the virus. NY currently needs to take more aggressive measures compared to someplace like Carpinteria. My parents are in their 90s. They live in a high density retirement community so they are taking very aggressive measures to guard against intrusion.
I think it is wise and humanitarian to adopt reasonable measures that will assist in reducing the spread of the virus, but in reality, the virus is not a threat to mankind. There is a rational argument that it will cull the weak from our herd and lead to a healthier population? I'm not proposing we cull the herd (in which case I probably would have been gone long ago), I'm simply pointing to a biology evolution concept. There have been far more lethal virus that have swept across and actually significantly reduced the size of populations. One of the problems with this virus is that it is not as deadly as some so it is harder to contain. Deadly viruses kill off there host more effectively, but in doing so they are easier to identify and contain, and they run out of host.
Although the virus will be painful and tragic for many people, it will do very little direct harm to the overall viability of mankind. What will do more lasting damage is the social reaction to the virus, which leads to a collapsing economy. I've evaluated the argument that we need to defeat the virus first and deal with the economy later, but how long will the people in NY city survive if their basic services and supply chain are cut off? A week or two at the most? It is easy to dismiss the economy when you aren't directly affected, but it's the economy that provides the supply chain that the feeds the cities. The reality is we need to do both. It doesn't' have to be a binary choice.
It's wise to manage and evaluate risk. Our ability to control risk varies. Airline accidents used to be common in this country. Air travel is now one of the safest forms of long distance transportation, but we achieved that result not by sweeping decree but rather by iterative analysis and incremental improvement. Those iterations were always a balance between cost vs. benefit. Our governor has come out with a sweeping shelter in place decree / order / or recommendation. It was done as a reflexive reaction to achieve a broad objective. We didn't have decades to fine tune the details, so we shouldn't expect the details to be religiously fixed in stone and as such my focus is to consider the objective rather than focusing on some undefined specific or missing detail.
I am guarded about what I hear from the media (news organizations, YouTube etc.), because the media profits from the sensation and is culturally motivated to whip up as much hysteria as possible, and that hysteria is far more dangerous than the actual virus. We are going to see consequences for years to come. Reduced public funding available for a host of programs like schools, safety nets, etc.. It isn't realistic to think we can continue to consume without producing the products for consumption. Our government will see vastly reduced income because tax revenue is based on productivity. Our government expenditures have skyrocketed as we attempt to provide a safety net because if we don't, the outcome will be even worse. Our Treasury will print more money, but that will result in an array of negative long term consequences. (note: the federal government can print more money, but not the state governments)
Some simple numerical analysis scenarios: I live in a small town (Carpinteria). Our single high school and middle school have about 150 kids per grade. If we deliberately infected all high school kids, how many would die. The answer is far less (1 or 2) than will or have died over a 10 year period (the approximate reoccurrence of recent deadly viruses) from suicide and or car accidents. Disclaimer, I'm not proposing that we infect all the children, or stop driving cars, I'm just doing the math.
Each generation has a label. The current (younger) generation has a huge sense of entitlement. Entitlement to be happy, to be free from risk. Perhaps I am willing to accept more risk than others (in some areas), but I think most people can see that we have become risk adverse as a society. My mom had 8 children and now she has 6 remaining. One of my brothers was risk adverse, but he recently died from ALS (so unfair?). My life partner's mother recently died in our living room. A significant number of my close friends and acquaintances have died hang gliding or paragliding. About 150,000 people in the world die every day. Yes, every day, or about 50 million people a year. In a short lifetime, all 8 billion of us will die. Death is part of life. How many people will die as a result of our deliberate social media driven choice to stop producing the goods and services we need for our supply structure to operate.
We are concerned about hospital staff as we should be. Perhaps in the early stages of the pandemic we could have asked for young healthy volunteers to self infect, then they would be immune and available for front line work when the infection rate peaks? Crazy idea? In the 60s we didn't ask for volunteers, we simply conscripted young men against their will and sent them to a jungle to fight and die. I recently watched the movie 1917 (well executed high budget film, but a completely unrealistic story line). Toward the end they have a scene where the men are about to head out of the trenches to attack. The sergeants have their pistols raised. They don't have their pistols drawn to shoot the enemy, that are letting their own men know they don't have a choice to not go over the wall.
I've also considered the argument that if we fly and get hurt we are going to
strain the health care system. Once again, it depends on where you are.
If you live in NYC its probably best to reduce your base jumping activity for
awhile. I live in Carpinteria. To the best of my knowledge
have a few cases (2 or 3) related to people who are or were here, but don't
currently have any confirmed case of actual Carpinteria residents with the virus. We currently have about 20 to 30 cases in out county.
(3/30/2020 update, the number of cases will continue to rise. As of today, there
were 88 confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County and 6 cases in the localities
south of Santa Barbara city as noted on the SB County Public Health Website at
https://publichealthsbc.org) Our main medical provider in town is Sansum Clinic. Sansum recently announced sweeping
layoffs and facility closures due to lack of business. Sansum is bleeding
cash and having trouble making payroll. Many of their employees are
underutilized with very little or nothing to do. If some pilots could
break and arm or two in the next couple of weeks it will actually help the local
medical providers. They may be non-profit, but they rely on customers for
revenue just like any other business. My life partner is a local RN.
She is under a lot stress for a number of reasons including the decline in
A number of "professional" or sponsored pilots have "chosen" not to fly for various reasons, but in reality, they likely have little choice. All the structured and sponsored events have been canceled or postponed. They profit from their public image, so I'm a tad skeptical when I read about their motives. I'm not faulting or judging anyone for their choice to fly or not to fly. We all have varied circumstances so I think we should use caution about transposing our unique circumstances onto others because their circumstances are likely different.
Locally (Carpinteria), traffic and many activities are substantially reduced, but people are out and about, conducting business, exercising, and recreating, but also using common sense to minimize exposure. Our local golf driving range is busier than ever. Gibraltar road is full of cyclist. I strive to maintain a reasonable distance from people, but sometimes need to get closer than 6 feet during an exchange whether that be my car mechanic or grocery checker. Something like dentistry is obviously a higher risk activity, but if you want extra protection in an Uber, you can wear a mask?
So... its not rally as complicated as my ramblings. Depending on were you live, it is my perception that we can continue to fly and engage in reasonable social distancing to statistically slow the virus's advance. It's not an absolute science or religion. I don't think we need hard and fast limits like x number of people to a vehicle. Most pilots are experienced risk evaluators and will proceed in a reasonable manner. My perception of our local scenario is not static. Like the weather of the day, it will evolve and change so I (and other pilots) will adjust as needed.
Some local pilots have voiced a concern that my posting about flying is somehow harmful to our community image. I'm a bit skeptical of that notion. In today's multi-media age its a challenge to get anyone to even read what you write and or post. I think most people are pretty inundated with other distractions and non-pilots aren't really following our discussions. That said, some have suggest I (or we) should stay off the public SBSA forum and communicate on in "private" groups. That idea has some pros and cons. I don't have any commercial interest or get any compensation for my postings. I feel that I am "contributing" to our community so if our community would prefer that I go quiet (or private) for awhile that is ok with me. I am evaluating and will try to poll our local members to get a sense of the group inclination.
I appreciate an occasional reminder and alternative perspective, but we are currently overloaded with advice so I don't see the continued hammering on our flight discussion sites as constructive. From my perspective it appears that the contributors who continue to insist and argue that we agree with their perception are more about self validation and flag waving. Most of them aren't even local pilots, so they aren't considering our regional scenario.
Message posted by Tom Truax to the SBSA Telegram on Saturday, 3/28/2020 at 7:51 AM
Some pilots have suggested that I post on a “private” forum rather than the public telegram forum. I would like to “privately” poll the local membership to weight the group sentiment, so if you care one way or the other, please send me private message indicating your preference. You don’t need to send an explanation or justify your inclination, it is what it is, and I won’t judge you based your feelings or preference. I will only consider input from the local membership, and I don’t personally know all the pilots, so please include where you are from, how long you have been flying, and how often you fly locally from the South Coast sites. Please do not clutter this public discussion with a response one way or the other.
Updated Monday, 3/30/2020
Since the nature of the telegram app is somewhat here and now and not really an archive, I think all that are going to respond have.
One takeaway is that on public forums people aren't always speaking directly to the person they are replying to, they are speaking to a larger audience. It seems to be human nature for people to shout a little louder when addressing a large group and most people will soften their tone when speaking privately. All the comments were very respectful, even those that might be strongly opinioned. Perhaps all the responders read the 2nd to the last paragraph at: http://scpa.info/bb/help/offensive.htm
The purpose of the informal "poll" was not to take a vote, but rather to gage sentiment. I was asking for opinions about "posting" and some of the responses were more about the virus and flying, so there was some ambiguity. I read each response at least twice, and I read the ones that were contrary to my views more because one of my objectives was to learn which parts of my behavior some might find offensive.
The results may be skewed for a number of reasons:
My general impression is that no one who replied was really opposed to my flying, but some did encourage me to make an effort to keep the social distancing objectives in mind. To fly or not to fly wasn't really the question, but some offered comments on that anyway, and some completely ignored the question of posting.
No one seemed strongly opposed to posting, but a number did suggest that it might be better to only put some stuff on the private forums. The most common reason was concern that flagrant disregard for stuff like ride-sharing might reflect badly on the flying community.
The majority felt that I should keep posting for number of reasons
I don't think the issue is black and white. I can't expect to please everyone, but will strive to avoid division in our community. Some of the pilots that I know well indicated they prefer private posting and I value their input. On the flip side, posting to private sites does have some negatives. It makes it harder for non-pilots like friends and family to follow along.
So... I'm going to try a compromise middle option. I'll post my flight articles on other sites like Paraglide.net, and post a link to those articles where appropriate. I'll strive to avoid references to logistics that would suggest disregard for social distancing. For stuff like meet times or other logistics, I'll look at the private groups that have been suggested. I haven't joined any private groups yet, but I did do a short how to Telegram YouTube tutorial last night and will figure it out soon. I do think that some stuff is important for safety and peace of mind. I think it is appropriate to publicly post when I have landed so friends and family are updated, and if I have logistics covered I'll publicly post that also for the same reasons, but I don't need to include the details. If there are logistic details I'll post them to private groups that are not visible to the general public.
In my typical engineering way, I listed the responses in a spreadsheet, but as noted previously, it's not black and white
I'll try to find time to reply to the commenters individually in the next week or so, but I often overload myself with more projects than I have time for, and occasionally my focus gets diverted by the weather, so...
I want to thank everyone who responded, particularly those that might have issue with my actions. I value your input.