Like so many uncontrolled airports dotting the landscape, my home field has always been a bit sparse on the business front. We had the FBO…and we had…you know, we had the…umm….well, we had the FBO,
This has, at times, been a real point of contention for the locals, because our lack of GA business tenants was never due to the field’s lack of potential or disinterest on the part of the users. Rather, our dearth of commercial operations was more deeply rooted in the fact that the management staff had little confidence and even less knowledge of what a general aviation airport’s purpose might be. As unlikely as it might seem, the idea of stopping by to actually ask the users what sort of amenities and services they might like to see housed on site never occurred to anyone in a position of authority. From the airport manager right on up through the command structure, our airport’s management specialized in the cold shoulder technique.
Certainly, suggestions were made over the years. But making a compelling argument for managed growth to a disinterested bureaucrat is as likely to be successful as trying to teach a drunk teenager about the importance of responsible, long-term financial planning. In either case, you might as well be talking to the wall. Actually, talking to the wall is probably a slightly better deal. At least with the wall you have something comfortable to lean on while you’re being ignored.
Fortunately, that has begun to change at my home field, at least in part because it’s far easier to catch the attention of the airport’s management when the voters put someone with a decidedly pro-aviation plan in a position of authority. Nothing rallies the troops like success. And success has a tendency to encourage more success.
Life is funny like that.
So it was with great enthusiasm that the newly re-energized users and tenants of little old Gilbert Field in Florida caught the eye of Tecnam North America earlier this year. It started simply enough, when a pair of local pilots who were intrigued by Tecnam’s sleek and stylish P2006T twin, suggested the company stop by their home field on the way home from Sebring’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo.
Who would have believed it? Tecnam came to town!
It was an unusually cold and blustery winter day in central Florida when Ray Swanson and Dave Lubore set down on Runway 29 and taxied to the terminal. Their intent was an honorable one – to demo the new design to potential customers. And they did just that. But they were perhaps a little surprised to find a city official on hand when they rolled to a stop, waiting to welcome them to town, offer the full use of the terminal and its amenities, and encourage them to stop back and make themselves comfortable any time they had the urge.
There is a theory in business circles that a firm handshake, a warm smile, and a sincere offer of encouragement is enough to base a relationship on. It certainly was in this case. E-mails were exchanged. Telephone conversations ensued. And within a matter of weeks a charismatic young man by the name of Ed Totanes had set up shop in the terminal building at Gilbert Field, representing the Tecnam Aircraft line to all who had an interest.
Gilbert Field is on the move, at long last. And all it took was a sincere effort to make it happen, and somebody in a position of authority who has the insight and the desire to say “yes” when a good opportunity presents itself.
For those who think politics make strange bedfellows, aviation and politics combined can amp up those relationships to an even more unbelievable level. After years of disinterest, this small town government has taken a big first step toward proving the point that southern hospitality and a sleek line of LSAs represent a potentially powerful tag-team of GA opportunity.
Who knows what more we can do in the coming years? Or what you can do at your home field, for that matter? Only time will tell. But I’ve got a good feeling about the future of GA in America. I really do.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.