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.
Powerful allies can pop up out of the blue, if you’re open to recognizing the opportunity. Since my basic rules of advocacy lean in the direction of the more the merrier, I am always on the lookout for either new converts, or old stalwarts, who are willing to join the campaign to make general aviation more readily accepted, and better understood.
My most recent flirtation with expanding the roster of our growing airport friendly team of players started simply enough. A friend sent me an e-mail that essentially said, “I have a friend who is interested in aviation. Can you make time to meet her?”
“Sure,” was my quick and honest response. If someone wants to get together to talk about airplanes, aviation, or the airport, I’m ready for a cup of coffee and a good chat. Who knows? They might become a valuable asset down the road. Or they might become a good friend. It’s certainly possible that the setup will be no more than a one time deal that results in nothing more stimulating than the caffeine my drink can supply. But that’s a chance you just have to take if you’re hoping to build a working team that can have a truly beneficial effect in the long run.
In this most recent case at least, the decision to get together was a true winner.
It turns out that my friend’s characterization of my coffee date as, “interested in aviation,” was just slightly conservative. The charming, southern woman I met is in fact a captain for a major airline. She has flown everything from light singles early in her career to turbine powered heavy iron more recently, which makes her a true professional in my book. But she is honest enough to acknowledge that commercial airline work is nearly as foreign to general aviation and piston-powered single-engine aircraft as general aviation is to the management staff hunkered down in most city hall offices.
As peculiar as it may seem, it is exactly that recognition that GA and the airlines are only loosely connected in the aviation world that makes the participation of a line captain so potentially powerful. While a flight instructor like myself might receive only minimal respect at city hall, and a private pilot might receive even less, a full-blown airline captain can easily get the attention of everyone in the room. And that’s a positive. Because while we may deliver essentially the same message to the airport management, the airline captain will automatically find her message to be better received and more likely to be acted on.
That’s reality. It’s unfair, it’s myopic, and it’s counter-productive in a general aviation environment – but it’s the way of the world. I can live with it. But then I don’t have any need to be the center of attention, either. It’s perfectly okay with me if the winning argument comes from somebody else – as long as we are all on the same page and carry the same message forward, what difference does it make who gets the credit for scoring the winning point? Progress is progress. I’m just happy to be on the team, coach.
What I anticipated would be a one-hour encounter turned into a three-hour festival of story-telling, reminiscing about pilots and days gone by, and a few familiar memories about early flying experiences. It turns out we both flew out of the same airport early in our careers, and we both took check rides with the same, old-dog examiner in Vero Beach many years ago.
It’s a small world, indeed. But it’s a world with two more pilots who took the time to get better connected, both of whom are ready to go to bat for the local airport, and carry the fight as far as it has to go to win the day.
So what was my next step after meeting a fellow pilot and finding out what an asset she might be to the team? I shot off an e-mail to a good friend here in town that said essentially, “I just met the most fascinating woman who flies for a living – wanna meet her for coffee?”
And so the team continues growing, and becoming more powerful.
I like the way this is working out. We still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there – little by little. There’s no doubt about that.
You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.