Perhaps it’s just my background in theatre and music talking, but wouldn’t you agree that one of the most compelling aspects of aviation is the opportunity for artistic expression through one’s flying? I’ll be the first to admit it’s a romantic notion, straight out of the swashbuckling, barnstorming 1930’s, scarf and all. But so what?

Whether it’s perfectly coordinated operation of the aircraft, maximum efficiency during a flight, a smooth centerline “kiss” of the runway with the tires, or barrel roll so flawless that it appears the earth is rotating around a stationary aircraft, there’s a higher level of consciousness — a zen, if you will — to be realized in achieving it.

There are other ways to express one’s artistic side, of course. One such example is this video by Brent Owens, who mounted a video camera under the perfectly polished wing of his RV-8.

The resultant video reminds me of the opening scene from L.A. Opera’s Das Rheingold. The three maidens were suspended above the stage while supernumeraries in identical costumes were positioned upside down underneath them to represent a reflection in the waters of the Rhine. In the same way, scenery underneath Brent’s airplane is bounced off the lower wing like a film noir sequence beaming onto a screen at a timeworn drive-in theater.

I love it.

The likeness of three Rhine maidens are "reflected" by actors mimicking their movements from below.
The likeness of three Rhine maidens are “reflected” by actors mimicking their movements from below.

Artistic flying can take many forms. For me, it’s best represented by precision and accuracy when I’m behind the controls. For others… well, they take the road less traveled. Sometimes it gets downright wacky! For example, an Dutch artist whose cat was run over by a car decided to convert the feline corpus into a remote-controlled helicopter.

Yes, you read that right. It’s got to be a bit morbid to see the permanent wide-eyed expression of a former companion perpetually staring back at you, but it’s certainly a one-of-a-kind tribute to a beloved pet and avocation.

This guy takes the combination of art and flying to a whole new level!
This guy takes the combination of art and flying to a whole new level!

Kristi and I have two cats, but I’ll refrain from any suggestion of furball formation flying…

  11 comments for “Reflections

  1. September 13, 2013 at 4:45 am

    I’m flattered to be mentioned in this post.

    I couldn’t agree more that lines between flying and art are often blurred — to our joy!


    • September 13, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Thanks, Brent. Between the brilliantly polished wing and the perfect positioning of the camera underneath it, the mirroring almost looks like a digitally-generated special effect rather than a natural product. Did you plan that, or was it just a happy coincidence?

      • September 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm

        It was totally an accident. I have since put reflection to good use in photos and video, but this was my best video yet. I think the lighting, my altitude (1500′) and the composition of the city, really made it work.

  2. Peter Moncure-
    September 13, 2013 at 5:59 am

    As usual, you’re really on to something here. There are a thousand ways in every flight for me to “get satisfaction” from everything about the discipline of flying (and you’re not the only pilot with a musical and thespian past). Filling the tanks in a Cessna takes time, more than the line crews have, to do it just right, without spilling one drop or tempting the overflow vents on the taxi turn. Just unlocking my own hangar, with the hasp always to the left.. a thousand thousand maybe. Talk about clouds for a minute, or an hour if you like. Which of us fails to plan for, anticipate and enjoy the bump on entering, a never-failing-but-always-different completion of every child’s wish? I’ve never been in a sailplane, but those guys get it cubed, or more, so much they don’t even talk about it mostly, I can’t even imagine the breathless joy of truly understanding the air as they do. I was walking down a remote mountain valley in the Italian Alps once on “the one road”, closed my eyes and could “hear” the shapes of the mountain slopes from the cowbells, maybe it’s like that? It’s very personal. But with $39 SW tickets, the bloom is off the aviation rose for the unwashed, so I’d say we who get it need to articulate it or piloting will wilt. Sure, there’s the concrete checklist, but isn’t it only a foundation for the cut-glass crystalline sweet sky?

  3. September 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Love your perspective, Pete! Glider pilots definitely dance with the air rather than just passing through it as power pilots often do. Sailplanes have nothing but a stick and rudder anyway, so it’s all about pure, raw hand-flying, looking out the window, and connecting with the craft and the atmosphere it’s immersed in.

    The cheap Southwest tickets are easy on the wallet, but they don’t do much to ablate the discourteous experience of modern airline travel. The overcrowded terminals and aircraft, dressing down (literally) by the TSA, etc. In a way, it’s a shame to even call it “flying”.

  4. Sue Carrigan
    September 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Is that a look of excitement or terror on Kitty’s face?

    • September 13, 2013 at 8:50 am

      I must admit spending too much time pondering the same question, Sue!

  5. September 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Mr. Rapp: Flying can indeed be Artful. For your continued journey into Artfulness, you might want to check this out:
    Michael Maya Charles, author
    “Artful Flying, How to Turn Your Passion for Flying into a Lifetime of Excellence”

    • September 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Michael–I thought of your book when I wrote the phrase “artful flying”. Been a fan since your AVweb days… 🙂

      • September 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

        “AVweb days”? You mean, they had Internet that long ago? And you were old enough to read? Geeeesh!

  6. September 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Too funny, glad your kitties are safe from furr ball flying

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