By Angela Johnson
In an age dominated by video games, the Internet and iPods, it’s not always easy to attract the attention of children. For the Born family, who owns and operates Born Aviation Products, letting the joys of aviation fly under the radar of young people isn’t an option.
Born Aviation Products, a 25-year-old Indiana-based company, specializes in aviation gift products, which they sell to museums, gift shops and air-show vendors. David Born, 36, grew up helping his dad with the family aviation business and is now vice president of the company.
As far back as Born can remember, his father, Donald Born, president and founder of Born Aviation Products, has always shared his love of flying with him.
“I’ve just grown up with the love of aviation,” Born said. “Anytime we went anywhere, we’d always stop at aviation museums. We never flew; we always drove so we could stop at all the museums along the way.”
A former Air Force pilot who flew a Lockheed EC-121 Constellation AWACS in Vietnam, Born’s father remains an avid pilot. Although Born isn’t a pilot himself, he’s spent countless hours in the air flying with his dad.
Born chuckles as he recounts one of his most memorable flying experiences with his father. When he was a child, his dad liked to try to pick out houses from the sky. He would fly around them in circles. Born recalls this always made him sick.
“As the years have gone by, I’ve gotten a little bit more used to it,” Born said with a laugh. “But boy, when I was a kid sitting in the backseat of Dad’s Grumman Tiger–which you can’t really see out of the back windows of that well–just flying around in circles really got to me.”
Most children don’t experience flying in such a hands-on way. According to Born, his father fears there aren’t enough young people interested in aviation today. Concerned that too few children have an interest in flying, it’s his hope that finding a fun way to teach children about general aviation will begin to curtail this trend.
So meet Stick and Rudder, the stars of a series of children’s books put out by the Born family in spring 2005. These two characters are the family’s fun way of introducing children to the world of aviation.
Three books, as well as a coloring and activity book, have been released so far in the “Adventures of Stick and Rudder” series. The colorfully illustrated books weave aviation terms and concepts throughout imaginative storylines that detail the two main characters’ lives as cargo pilots.
The idea for the books was something the Born family had tossed around for quite awhile. One night over dinner the stories finally came to life as doodles and ideas scribbled on a tablecloth. Although the idea for the books was that of the entire family, it was David Born who actually came up with the storylines and wrote the books. Different personality traits from members of the family have inspired the characters in the books.
“Stick is our straight-laced, everything-by-the-book guy,” Born said. “You know, the corners on his bed are always military tucked and you could bounce a quarter off his bed–that type of thing. That’s my dad to a T; he likes everything just right.”
Completing the pair is Rudder–the sloppy, messy, can-never-find-his-shoes kind of character–who Born explains is a mix of his wife and himself. A do-it-all mechanic named Bolts, and a sensible office manager and helicopter pilot named Belle also play a part in the quirky and funny adventures of Stick and Rudder.
Stick flies a Stearman, and Rudder flies a Waco with a jet engine strapped to the bottom. They share a DC-3 as they fly around making their deliveries. Whether the pair is racing each other to determine who the better pilot is, or tackling the challenge of an overheated cargo bay filling with exploding popcorn kernels, Stick and Rudder always have a smile on their face. Bursting with aviation and flying terms, as well as history detailing famous pilots and flights, the books are as much educational as they are fun.
“It really is my goal for kids to have fun when they’re reading them, but at the same time learn something about aviation without them realizing they’re learning,” Born said. “When my kids laugh when I read to them, I know I’m doing OK.”
Another Stick and Rudder book and a second coloring and activity book will be coming out this spring, and many more are set to follow. To further enhance the educational goal of the series, the newest book will include a glossary of terms. Born explains that most children don’t even know where Stick and Rudder’s names came from; he thought that a glossary of terms would be a benefit to both the children and parents alike who read the books.
They may not require batteries, or beep, flash and play music, but “The Adventures of Stick and Rudder” are heartfelt, funny and full of lessons in aviation. Born hopes they will not only attract the attention of children, but also teach them a little something about aviation, while sparking a love and appreciation similar to that which his father, himself and the entire Born family have for flying.
For more information on “The Adventures of Stick and Rudder,” visit [http://www.stickrudder.com] or [http://www.bornaviation.com].