Aviation Benefits Everyone

The next time you hear someone disparage aviation, point out that everyone depends on it.

Don’t believe that? Think about it.

The food we eat now comes from all over the world. Delicate fruits and vegetables don’t arrive by slow boat; they are flown in, fresh daily, from places such as Chile, the Netherlands, Israel, South Africa, California – well, to those of us on the east coast California is almost a foreign country.

Boston long has touted itself as “The Hub of the Universe,” which is pure hyperbole, but it certainly is the hub of the wholesale fish world. If you eat any fish other than those caught where you live, it probably came to you via Boston. Fish and shrimp from such diverse points as South America and Thailand are flown to Boston, packaged and flown out to a distributor who delivers them to your local grocery store. Alaska salmon are flown to Boston, packaged there and flown to California, all within 24 hours. Striped bass farmed in California are flown to Boston, packaged, and shipped to markets around America, including those on the west coast. Thanks to aviation and economies of scale, that actually makes sense.

The clothes on your back probably were made in Southeast Asia or China. If you visit an air cargo terminal you can see racks of clothing – clothes on hangers hung on racks ready for retail stores – being rolled off of 747s. That fashionable Italian dress or suit didn’t get to Nordstrom’s by ship, either.

Have you bought flowers recently? The sources of most cut flowers are Holland and Venezuela. Cut flowers don’t stay fresh for long. They come to your florist by air.

Well, what has all that to do with your local airport? That’s the one your neighbor is complaining about; the one making the noise you and I love but he hates. The one he wants closed. He doesn’t care about the 35 airline hub airports or the handful of big air cargo ports. He’s fussing about the business jets and Bonanzas, the Cessnas and Pipers and Mooneys that he hears and resents.

What can you tell him?

About once a year I’m asked to speak to my local Rotary Club about the airport where I work. The airport manager, a friendly and articulate man, gets similar invitations. We can make a strong case for our small airport, which – according to a state-sponsored survey – pumps some $90 million a year into our local economy. That number impresses the bankers and real estate agents and retail business owners enormously, so we encourage them to toot it up to their customers. Some of them do. The word is getting out that a little airport noise not only is tolerable, but welcome, for its community benefits.

Those benefits include the two medical transportation companies basing helicopters here, and the State Police emergency medevac operation. An ambulance ride to a major medical center in Baltimore can take a frustrating, traffic-clogged hour or more from my town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The helicopter flight takes only minutes. It isn’t very hard to find someone whose life or limb has been saved by one of those flights, in our community of farmers and commuters – the former in an inherently dangerous occupation, the latter involved in traffic accidents on a daily basis.

Speaking of things medical, most of the blood supply moves by air and most of it through general aviation airports, not the airline hubs. We all know people who contribute to or have drawn from blood banks. They should be reminded that the blood they donate, need, or may need in the future reaches its recipients efficiently and on time aboard general aviation airplanes flying to local GA airports.

There are few communities in 21st century America where someone has not received a tissue transplant. It may be a skin graft, it may be a heart or liver or other vital organ, but the chances are high that it arrived on a general aviation airplane, fresh and ready to save a life.

Banks want us to think that their world is entirely electronic and we shouldn’t care about our cancelled checks, but – so far – finance in America and globally would collapse without aviation. Transactions may be electronic and instantaneous, but the proof requires paper and, in many cases, real signatures. Most of that paper travels by air. It moves in FedEx or UPS or DHL packages, in Postal Service envelopes carried by air, or by that inconspicuous small courier plane you may see at your airport – anything from an old Cherokee to a well-used Hawker, usually flying at night.

Air travel no longer is for the rich. As we know simply by boarding one of the airlines’ flying sardine cans, air travel is utilized by just about everyone. A lot of people whose parents couldn’t have done it fly to foreign countries, these days, either for business or as tourists. Some of them give a thought or two to what would happen if they got sick while far from home, perhaps in some place where medical care is dubious at best.

That’s when general aviation comes to the rescue.

Several insurance companies offer policies which, for a few hundred dollars a year, guarantee to fly you home by air ambulance from anywhere. “Anywhere” includes Russia, where you never want to be sick or injured; it includes West Africa, Thailand, China, Antarctica – darned near anywhere on Earth. If you’ve ever fallen ill on a Caribbean cruise – not an unlikely circumstance, it appears – you’ll understand how satisfying it would have been for a Learjet to meet you at the nearest port as you waved farewell to your fellow sufferers.

I do not exaggerate when I say that aviation benefits everyone. These are but a few examples. The limit is space on these pages, not the possibilities. You, your neighbors, everyone in your community, everyone in the United States benefits from aviation.

I’m sure you can find examples of your own.

Spread the word.

Thomas F. Norton is GAN’s Senior Editor.

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