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Notes on JBG
AVSIG at 25

AVSIG History

Notes on JBG

The State of the Sig

Our Contentious Little Secret

What We've Learned so Far



Some of the world's most influential people are born into that influence.  Others create it from social, business, or political connections.   John Burton Galipault (1930-1993) was the rare soul who influenced the world with little more than his own passion, wits, and determination.

As founder of the Aviation Safety Institute in Worthington, Ohio, John brought the aviation industry and regulators together in a private, third-party environment to solve problems outside the public chain-of-blame when possible, though he was never afraid of taking the fight to Congress or television cameras if need be.  John focused not just on the obvious, generic causes of aviation accidents like poor flight planning and airmanship, but on specific and formidable targets like DC-10s and at least one airline that kept two sets of maintenance records: one for it and the other for its crooked FAA FSDO man to sign-off.

Longtime AVSIGers remember John as the wise and benevolent host and moderator of countless classic AVSIG discussions, but probably not as the tenacious pain-in-the-posterior that some (mostly former) airline industry executives may recall.

Ever try to shout someone down in an argument, only to find that that someone has his facts so straight that he doesn't need to shout back?

John was that kind of guy.

Back before corporate executives learned to avoid "Gotcha" TV journalism at all costs, John was the original but non-sensational "Gotcha" guest. 

In the 1980s, airline and manufacturer representatives who prepared themselves to share a television news magazine set face-off with yet another half-baked director of a "cause" group were rarely prepared for John B.   One video vignette from our archives shows John patiently dissecting the canned talking points of a McDonnell-Douglas spokesman as both discuss the design of the hydraulics system in the DC-10.  The McDonnell-Douglas man is smirking at unknown parties off-camera every time (he thinks) he is off camera, as if to say, "Nobody's taking this self-appointed expert seriously, are they?"  He could only hope, as it soon becomes clear that he's brought only talking points and smirks to the discussion. 

In contrast, there was very little superficial or underhanded about John on or off camera, which made him an effective go-between in the world of aviation safety and great medicine against stuffed suits spouting the company line.

I worked with John from 1989 until his death from a heart attack in 1993.  I produced the Institute's publications and knew only vaguely about AVSIG, which at first glance looked to be John's after-hours-down-in-the-basement hobby.  But every once in awhile John printed a message from AVSIG and passed it around the office.  In-between the friendly and silly little "International Aerodrome and Farm" exchanges about "heffers" on the runway it soon became clear that John was receiving many of the Institute's aviation hazard reports via AVSIG.

In a sad and silent private dining room of the Worthington Inn on the day of John's funeral, ASI trustee Sandy Trevor sat at the table with a stack of messages he'd printed up from AVSIG over the preceding three days.  The thick sheaf was the first visual representation of the depth of AVSIG for most of us -- it was very hard to believe that it represented only a few days of message posting.  Then Sandy read selected comments, filling the room with the eloquent, passionate voices of AVSIG.  As fine as the speakers at John's larger church memorial were, the time-space-shifted and third-person-narrated AVSIG eulogies in that small room outshone all.

Speaking of eulogies and JBG, the eulogies from the aviation world were significantly outnumbered at the church memorial service by those from John's former high school lacrosse players.  For in addition to making the aviation world safer and founding the world's first international online aviation forum, John nearly single-handedly brought the game of lacrosse to central Ohio high schools.  One of his lacrosse players may tell that story some day, but I'll throw out a small piece of it here.  John drove a bright orange van with "Have Fun.  Play Lacrosse!" stenciled on the side in stark black all over "You Can't Drive a Bright Orange Stenciled Van in this Town" Worthington, Ohio.  Whether in the world of aviation safety or high school sports, John sometimes needed, and was never shy about using, a bright orange van.

Other things we know about JBG:

... He liked Tootsie Rolls, chaw, and medium salsa, but never together.

... He kept a Gary Larson Far Side calendar on his credenza.  He howled at most of those cartoons, but passed the ones he didn't "get" around the office for analysis (a few were just "ungettable").

... He once got in trouble for casually addressing a receptionist at a local university as "babe."  John was guilty of being a man from a different era.  The receptionist was guilty of protesting the most flattering salutation she was ever likely to get from a man from any era.

... It's "JBG" ... not "JPG" ... though we do have a JPG of JBG in our libraries: JBG.JPG.

-- Mike Overly                  1/1/2006                                                                            Next

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AVSIG History  Notes on JBG  The State of the Sig  Our Contentious Little Secret What We've Learned so Far

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