Why should the tail wag the dog?


Re: Is there a better name for general aviation?: Why not call what we do just…aviation. I submit that it is easy to make the case for retiring that first, ambiguous, word. After all, whenever I am required to define the term general aviation to non-flyers, I always repeat the general bromide that it is “all aviation that is neither military nor airline passenger transportation” or, in other words, everything else.

If this is so, why does what we do need any modifying adjective to distinguish it from what is actually the much smaller number of aircraft and flights flown in any given hour, day, month or year. Most pilots are general aviation pilots, flying general aviation aircraft into mostly general aviation airports. Why should the tail wag this dog?

Of course I realize that nearly all non-flyers think of aviation as Jet Blue, Southwest and the rest of them with multiple toilets on board, but that is no reason for us not to begin a campaign to change the language over the next generation or two.

The change would be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and I don’t expect that it would catch on over night. However, if we pilots began the practice of using adjectives only when referring to military aviation and airline passenger aviation we would immediately save the breath, and ink, it takes to say, and print, the meaningless word general all of the time, and, ever so slowly, it just might disappear from the term and alter the concept.

After all, Neil Armstrong was doing just aviation, as was Orville, and Lindbergh, and me, last Friday night, when I flew to dinner at Albany. None of those flights were of the “other” kind that we keep trying to define ourselves as different from. I submit that we just don’t need a first name. We are aviation. Period.

HOWARD KAVE, Cornwall, N.Y.


  1. Don Ramsay says

    I agree that “General” is meaningless. Perhaps “Recreational Aviation” would make more sense leaving Military Aviation and Commercial Aviation well described by their titles?

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