Uh, can anybody help me…please?

Situational awareness is a big deal at the airport. Just as pilots need to have a clear picture of what’s going on around them in the ether, airport managers need to have a solid grasp of the condition of the field they are responsible for. Similarly, airport advisory board members, and their support staff, need to have access to reliable, verifiable information if they are to have any hope of providing oversight that is worth a hill of beans.

It’s all pretty basic. Clear communications lead to enhanced understanding, which leads to worthwhile action. At least that’s the theory.

In my case I’m lucky, or cursed, depending on your point of view. After almost 20 years of instructing, renting, and generally hanging around telling stories on the same airport ramp, I’ve got a good working relationship with a wide range of pilots and tenants. Fortunately for me, several of them have no problem calling me up from time to time to relate the latest scuttlebutt making the rounds on the field. Ironically, as much as that keeps me in the loop, it presents me with a problem too. Much of the information I get is second- or third-hand.

It’s hard to take decisive action on a rumor.

Pilots, tenants, and airport users of all stripes should be as bold when dealing with the airport manager or the controlling authority on the field as they would when calling ATC for a clearance.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard, “Aaahh, Podunk Tower, I have it on good authority that Experimental 12345 is ready to taxi to the active, departing westbound.” And there’s a good reason that you’ve never heard that call. It wouldn’t get a serious response, unless that call back was something like, “Aircraft calling Podunk Tower, please telephone the tower when able.” That’s not a request any of us want to hear.

So here’s the advice part of the blog, take it or leave it. When your hangar is leaking, the self-serve fuel pump quits accepting credit cards, or the VASI is out — tell the airport manager. Make a call, send an e-mail, drop a postcard, or mention it in passing while on your way to the restroom. Any method is acceptable. Just make sure you pass the message along personally. It’s the only way to go.

Of course, if you don’t get a timely response, tell the airport manager’s immediate supervisor. Run your issue up the chain as high as you have to go, giving each new level the opportunity to work on the problem and find a solution. The process may not always be effortless or pretty, but it’s a whole lot more likely to get results than grumbling to a bunch of your fellow irritated aviators over coffee and vending machine crackers on a foggy morning.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in Winter Haven, Florida, in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport.  You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.


  1. says

    Jamie, you are so right on! I too have only recently become interested in the study sessions and airport board meetings… What an eye opener. I’ve always offered our tower, and airport personnel, including the manager, free flight instruction until they solo in the hope of developing a positive relationship with the people I spend every day of the week with. I mean what a concept, an airport run by pilots…

    You’re exactly right in that these people need to be held accountable for their actions, or lack of. They must support and promote GA in every way they possibly can, not only for their own survival, but all of us involved in the industry. I mean what reason would there be for them to be here, if not for us… How long will a manager last that is constantly abusive, and adversarial with his most important constituents?

    I’ve been hearing horror stories of administrations that are using 8g as an excuse to play the heavy. About all we have to sell here is fun and tsa and admin are making it very hard to survive in their world of intimidation and useless security directives. I would encourage everyone to visit http://www.stoplasp.com and become engaged in stopping this travesty being heaped on our country by a run amok agency. Get involved with the advisory and board meetings and make the airport what it needs to be, a friendly, kind, courteous place that people want to come to. Take care and good luck to us all.mb

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