BOOK REVIEW By DAVE SCLAIR
In the many years that I published General Aviation News (under a variety of names), we enjoyed having a variety of individuals write columns for us.
One of those columnists was the late Peter Bowers. He did a regular column on historical aircraft for us for many, many years. I often told him that I wished my aviation knowledge was just a small fraction of his.
Another of those who wrote for us on a regular basis, although for not as many years as Bowers, was Darryl Phillips. His column regularly chastised the FAA for issues Phillips felt didn’t do anything to promote general aviation and frequently hampered it.
Columnists are supposed to inform readers, present them with ideas that make them think and, of particular value to the newspaper, cause readers to talk about the column and, subsequently, the publication. Both Bowers and Phillips succeeded in informing, but Phillips really got people to thinking and talking and, very importantly, writing letters to the editor.
Lots of the letters were laudatory; many were less so. We were able to print many of them; a few required so much editing to keep them usable in a family publication that we ultimately discarded some.
Now, Phillips has gathered most of the columns he wrote during the 1990s and reprinted them in book form. He calls it “Stop the FAA and Save General Aviation.”
To be completely honest, I read all the columns when Phillips sent them to us because I worried that he might include some accusations that I didn’t feel were fair or appropriate. I watched his columns carefully for anything that might result in a libel suit. I often disagreed with what Phillips was writing, but I always enjoyed his ability to think about an issue and explain it to readers.
Interestingly enough, as I scanned through the columns in the book, I discovered that many of the issues he discussed in the 1990s are just as relevant today. Let me quote from a column or two to show you what I mean:
May 1993: “Tax More or Spend Less”
“As Congress debates that question, the bureaucrats who actually run the agencies such as FAA already have their answer. They need programs … they can’t expand their empires by cutting programs. Their answer is to spend more, which means tax more. New annual aircraft registration fees of hundreds of dollars per plane, higher fuel taxes and whatever else they can dream up. And if they can’t tax enough, then they charge the rest to our grandkids.”
Boy, does that fit today’s Congress?
July 1993: “Give ‘em Hell, Darryl!”
Phillips described attending a meeting of the Aircraft Electronics Association and having several people call out to him in such a manner.
“The best part of writing a column like this is the many friendships it generates. By letter, by telephone and in person, you readers let me know when you agree. And you sure let me know when you don’t. Democracy may be ruled by the majority …. but columns aren’t. That gives me the freedom to espouse viewpoints that don’t always represent the mainstream.
“Planes and cars have evolved during the same time span, controlled by the same law of physics, influenced by the same economic factors, under laws administered by similar idiots in Washington, but look how differently they have grown.
“Cars are not safe and neither are aircraft. Zooming along faster than a gazelle is an unnatural act… But you can repair your own car if you want. Indeed, you can rebuild or modify the whole automobile if you want with no paperwork whatever. You can drive to the center or Los Angeles or Chicago without getting permission from anybody. Why with cars and not planes?”
Aren’t we still discussing those issues?
January 1994: “Pilots are a special breed, but do we want to be this special?”
“It’s nice to be special. Human nature places a high value on that ‘special’ feeling. Pilots are special. Virtually every adult in this country drives a car but only one out of 370 flies a plane. That makes us special. So how many of us own an aircraft? Best guess is about one out of every 1,600.
“Those who own a flying machine are special indeed and very special things often command a very high price. I wonder if we can afford to be this special.
“Consider the price Sam Skinner had to pay when nominated to head the DOT. He was required to sell his planes. Imagine that, to demonstrate that he had no conflict of interest, he had to divest himself of his flying machines. Of course DOT also regulates highways and the auto industry, yet nobody suggested that he should sell his cars. And DOT has a hand in the boating industry too, but he didn’t have to sell his boat. Why his planes? Because airplanes are special.”
The book is available through Amazon.com and I think when you read it you’ll enjoy yourself as much as I have. It is a paperback and sells for $16.