Speaking of politics and pilots

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.

It was my great pleasure to meet one of the gubernatorial candidates running in Florida, a few weeks ago. His name is Rick Scott. He’s been in the news a fair amount down my way. Perhaps you are familiar with him?

I thought I was reasonably familiar with him, too. But it was still a real kick to have the opportunity to attend a get-together where I would have the chance to actually meet and speak with him for a moment while he campaigned through the central part of the state. So I went to meet a potential governor of Florida, with an open mind, a cheery smile, and a sense of real optimism. For all it’s weaknesses and flaws, I am an enormous fan of the American system of government. We routinely see peaceful transitions of power from one party to another. In fact the social change that has occurred in my half-century on the planet has been nothing short of mind-boggling. And while there have been some severe bumps on the road of civic transition, we as a nation have managed to keep the limousine of state between the lines, on the road, and headed in a reasonable facsimile of the right direction for a good long time.

We can quibble on the finer points, I’m sure. But overall, we’re head and shoulders above the alternatives. The first amendment alone keeps me in Cheerios and coffee. I’m sure you have your favorites among the Bill of Rights, as well.

But back to the gubernatorial race.

The candidate, Rick Scott, arrived at a local hotel lobby for a campaign event, accompanied by no more than a handful of staff, and his ever-present wife, Ann. For a man who is often criticized for his considerable wealth, he apparently travels like the rest of us – on a budget and with no more than the few companions necessary to conduct the business at hand.

He moved, unannounced, to a moderately sized conference room where he was to speak to an assembly of supporters. That is where I had the opportunity to meet and speak to the man.

To my surprise, the candidate was affable, genuinely engaging, and a thoroughly enjoyable conversationalist. As he stepped in front of me to shake hands, I anticipated a brief, “Thanks for coming,” and off he would go. But that wasn’t the case at all. He hovered casually for several minutes. We chatted about the campaign, the differences between the private sector and the public process, a bit about our experiences with our home state, and then it happened. He asked me the simple question adults so often ask in conversation with newly met acquaintances. “What do you do?”

Since I was brought up right by a southern family that has expectations of forthrightness, I told him that I was an airplane guy. His reaction to that simple answer surprised me.

Rick Scott, Republican nominee for the Florida governor’s seat, confided with some pride that he is a pilot, too. Like so many general aviation pilots, he is not active. And quite frankly, I would be somewhat surprised if many candidates have the time or the inclination to fly themselves around the state as they wear themselves down to the bone campaigning for public office. I’m not even sure that would be wise, considering the human factors involved. But I was intrigued just the same.

It turns out Rick’s wife, Ann, also took flight lessons at one time, but never took her practical test, and so she remains in student-pilot limbo. Not quite a full-fledged pilot, but not a total novice, either.

Now this may seem incidental, but it is important to me, even though I am not the least bit close to being a one-issue voter.

You see, Florida suffered for several years with the stigma of astoundingly poor legislation passed in an attempt to raise revenue, at the expense of the aviation market specifically. Only this year did our legislature modify a tax that charged up to 6 percent of the purchase price of aircraft on owners who had the audacity to actually fly to Florida and land here.

That’s bad business, folks. Especially for a state that hosts the second largest aviation event in North America on an annual basis (hint: Sun ‘n Fun), and is home to a collection of flight schools that provide trained flight crew members to airlines, and various aviation related businesses all over the world.

Now I would never vote for a candidate just because he (or she) is a pilot. But it hasn’t escaped my attention that Scott’s running mate, Jennifer Carroll, has a solid aviation background, too. In her case, she was on the aircraft mechanic end of the equation, turning wrenches and pushing papers, for the United States Navy.

I’m not sure any state has ever had a pilot and an aircraft mechanic in the capital at the same time. And I am not at all sure that this particular pairing have any special plans for pro-aviation legislation. They have certainly made no great effort to make that case – which is fine with me. We are a minority, we aviators. But we may for the first time have friends with deep roots of aviation interest in a place where they can really make a difference by treating aviation as the viable business entity it is. After Detroit car execs were lambasted for flying on corporate jets, by congressmen who fly at taxpayer expense, wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a governor and a lieutenant governor who have been at the controls of an airplane, or been up to their elbows in hydraulic fluid, and know the business from the inside out?

November 2nd should be a profoundly interesting day in Florida. But perhaps not nearly as interesting as the conversations that may be bouncing off hangar walls on November 3rd.

We will see what we will see, my fellow aviators/voters/activists!

You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.


  1. says

    What a great string of feedback. It’s good to know this column has readers who care enough to spend a few minutes at the keyboard expressing themselves. Keep it up, folks. We’re building a terrific community here.

    I thought long and hard before writing this piece, because I feared the exact reaction this column is getting. So let me be clear – I am in no way suggesting that anyone should vote for Rick Scott because he is a pilot. Similarly I am not implying that anyone should vote for Jennifer Carroll because she is experienced in aircraft maintenance. Although I tried to make that message clear in the text, I clearly failed on that point. And I sincerely apologize for that lack of clarity.

    My intent was merely to point out that aviation enthusiasts are a special interest group. That term may rankle some, but it is true. And if I were voting for an elected office holder, I would want to know if one of the candidates had an aviation background. It’s certainly not the entirety of what I would base my vote on – but it’s a factor, I can’t deny that.

    There are over three weeks left until election day. If I meet Alex Sink (which is entirely possible) between now and then, and she happens to mention to me that she is a pilot – you can anticipate a follow-up story that will be truly interesting to read.

    Until then, educate, motivate, participate – and vote! Who you vote for is your business entirely. I will not take offense if you vote other than I might – if you can indeed figure out how I intend to cast my ballot.

  2. says

    I admire and appropriate the work that you are doing for general aviation. I am also an airman and am happy to be a part of a community with such a long and prestigious past.
    It would seem to me that you are putting your support behind Mr. Scott, made clear by your choice of words.I think that`s great on a personal level, however when it relates to aviation and it community please take some time to do some research. A one time meeting with a “politician” should not be enough to impress a person of your insight.
    As you know, there are also pilots who use their ships for ominous undertakings.If they(known drug running pilots) were to run for office would you write such an affirmative article in his or her support? But why would put your support behind someone for who clearly has not problem with morals and ethics? Have you seen some of his attack ads. The person who has been the head of a company which is responsible for the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history and ended with the hospital giant Columbia/HCA paying a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages.Please choose our advocates carefully, and not play partisan politics. That`s what you can call more of the same.Please let us move forward together.

  3. says

    I would love to believe that what you wrote would benifit our aviation community. I am an active ga pilot/owner out of KPMP and manufacture aircraft windows for business type aircraft. I will be voting for Marco Rubio and LtC Allen West but have a conflict with Mr. Scott. One of his first “campaign pledges” was to sell the state aircraft, does he plan to fly commercial or use his own A/C to get around? To me, the use of business aircraft when done properly is VERY justifiable. He needs to advertise that the state aircraft will be used for official state business only. Just a thought…


  4. Matt Comerford says


    I love your enthusiasm, aviation activism and enjoyable posts, but Rick Scott was fired from the board of Columbia Hospital Corporation for medicare fraud.

    Columbia Hospital Corporation had to pay the federal government $1.7 billion ($1,700,000,000.00) in FINES for screwing the government out of taxpayer dollars. It was and remains the largest medicare fraud scheme in our country.

    Don’t take my post personally. I simply think that fact has gone unnoticed.

    Please keep up the good fight and thoughtful posts!

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