November 17, 2016
Full disclosure: Dr. John Hunt is a dear friend, a great doctor, and clear thinker; although not a pilot, he comes close because he is a committed sailor. I continue to work on him to angle his sail through 90 degrees and take his wanderlust aloft.
Hunt is also a fine author and together with New York Times bestselling author Doug Casey, he has written a cracking adventure novel, Speculator, which I shall be buying for all my friends. Without giving anything away, the political underpinnings are oh-so-pertinent at this time in America’s history.
There are many parallels with messages I want to deliver to you having read the book.
- The word speculator relates to people who speculate on investments, the smart ones leveraging facts and data to their advantage; yet the word is often construed to mean people who make guesses. I love etymology, the root of words, and some digging here tells us that the word speculation derives from the late 1300s from the French word speculacion, meaning intelligent contemplation, the act of looking. Very definitely not guesswork. Relevance to aviation? We don’t guess as pilots, not the good and safe ones anyway. We plan, we contemplate intelligently. And I am sick of people who “speculate” on the cause of aviation accidents without being blessed with any wisdom on the art and science of flying airplanes. And really fed up when they talk about “amateur” pilots. Yes, people make errors and we should perform judicious root-cause analysis and disseminate our findings to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Become real speculators as John would define the word.
- One of the characters in Hunt’s book suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the course of his adventures and, thanks to the attentions of his comrade-in-arms and diligent medical staff, makes a recovery. This is a topic much in the news of late with NFL players and our brave war fighters and, indeed, I am involved in a project to study an investigational medical device to address one of the consequences of TBI. This is another example of someone writing about a topic he understands; as a physician I usually have to suppress my urge to vomit when reading novels or watching movies or TV that purport to feature a medical element as they are so often technically flawed. I wish we could demand proper fact-checking for people writing about anything with a technical bent, aviation or medical.
- Those of you who have met me or heard me speak, know that I proudly announce I am an American and chose to be one having moved here from the United Kingdom, not a country where I was persecuted or lacked opportunity, I just liked the approach to life that typified the good ol’ USA. Being “American” and living in the United States were synonymous and I feel that is no longer the case, a disconnect Speculator makes clear. I recently relocated from Virginia to another state and, in trying to move my 11-year-old airplane have run into a massive and stultifying bureaucracy. Why? Where is the America I moved to?
I could speculate on many aspects of life, especially as it impacts pilots and aviation. I watch the political debates with dismay and worry about the future of this great country and the attitude of true speculation that led to so many wonderful advances.
Writing a novel requires a phenomenal time commitment and an acknowledgement of the need to write and rewrite, not falling in love with our words yet staying true to our ideals. We do that as pilots; would that our leaders do the same.
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