When I started at Flying Magazine nearly 40 years ago we always wore neckties to go flying. And usually suit jackets or blazers.
And we weren’t the only ones. The pilots from Cessna, Beech, Piper and the others all knotted up the tie to go flying. It didn’t matter if we were in a Cessna 152, a Piper Aztec, a Beech King Air or a Cessna Citation the tie was standard equipment.
I thought about that here at the National Business Aviation Association convention and show in Orlando this week. Most people walking around the vast exhibit hall and even out at the airplane display at Orlando Executive airport have ties and jackets on.
I think the reason we all dressed up to fly a Skyhawk or Cherokee all of those years ago was to elevate the image of private flying. The industry we were all part of very much wanted to be taken seriously. Private airplanes were gaining capability and could deliver all sorts of transportation value. And professionalism, no matter what you flew, was everyone’s goal.
At the time I remember chaffing about the neckties on a 100 degree day in Wichita wondering why we couldn’t dress more comfortably. But we were all in it together so while we may have questioned the value of the ties I don’t know any pilot who would trade the tie for the chance to fly.
And I remember the flying was lots of fun. We were turned loose with brand new airplanes, sometimes airplanes that had not yet been fully tested and certified. New models were being developed regularly and personal aviation was booming. It was a peak of development and sales activity we haven’t seen since.
So walking around here at NBAA with my coat and tie I’m reminded that fun flying comes in all forms. It’s hard to beat a Cub on a sunny day with the door open and the slipstream flapping everything but a necktie. But then the guys who get to fly the new Gulfstream G650 at Mach .90 for more than 5,000 miles are having one heck of an experience with the tie firmly in place.
Oshkosh and NBAA couldn’t look more different. And though many pilots attend both shows they couldn’t look and dress more differently for the two. But in all cases flying is still fun no matter what the airplane is and how you dress to fly it.
Business casual has become the norm for most private flying. Even at Gulfstream and other business jet makers many wear business casual, especially during the hot months.
Maybe all those years ago the neckties demonstrated we were serious about flying, professionalism and safety. Perhaps we needed those ties then. And no matter what the ties didn’t sap any of the fun out of flying.
Now we dress to suit the occasion, the mission, and even the expectation of our passengers. That makes more sense. But I’m glad I got to fly through the mandatory necktie phase and hope that our dress helped the cause in some small way. And to get a chance to fly an interesting airplane I’m happy to wear whatever is required.
P.S. I was just reminded by an astute reader that Orville and Wilbur wore ties, too. Looks like it’s neckties two, silk scarves one.