Find Your Passion
Everyone needs an escape, now more than ever. Here's how five Coloradans found their passions—and how you can find yours.
Brian Richardson, 52
Brian Richardson doesn't consider himself a modern-day Indiana Jones, but it's hard not to draw the comparison. Although Richardson isn't globe-trotting to find the Holy Grail, he does spend his days chasing down history here in Colorado. As an avocational archaeologist, he ferrets out historic plane crashes and seeks to discover what really happened when these planes went down—often many years ago. "These sites are pieces of history, places that should be revered for their place in time and for what we can learn from them," says Richardson. The fact that Richardson's heart lies with aircraft (he's a program manager for the Federal Aviation Administration in his professional life) comes as little shock, considering his background. Born into a family of pilots, he says he had the keys to the family airplane before he could drive the family car.
The Appeal It's all about the hunt. Like any archaeologist, it's the chase that entices Richardson. After months of poring over old flight plans and historic documents, Richardson delights in the opportunity to hike through the mountains or survey the plains for wreckage that may have been untouched for more than 50 years. "I love digging something up and telling its story," he says, adding that more often than not he discovers that the "official" record of what caused the crash may not be accurate at all. "There are a lot of mysteries out there to be solved," he says, "and that's part of the fun."
The Commitment Each month, Richardson and a band of amateur archaeologists from the Colorado Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) spend time hunting down plane wrecks all over Colorado, both in the mountains and on the plains. Armed with paintbrushes, cameras, metal detectors, and snake gaiters ("because rattlesnakes are our archnemesis," he says), the crew sets out to find their target site. Sometimes they luck onto something; sometimes it's a bust. Either way, the group records its findings, which they are using to establish a national database of recorded aircraft crash sites.
Do It Yourself The CAHS archaeology department offers a three-day course ($129) for those interested in learning aviation archaeology. Once you've taken the course, you will be "certified" to join the department on any aircraft crash site. The department's next course starts May 30 at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. Visit www.coloradoaviationarchaeology.org for more information.