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.
Patrick Henry, a man who knew a thing or two about standing up when the chips were down, famously spoke the words, “United we stand, divided we fall.” He made that critical point in his last public speech, in 1799. Keep that in mind for a moment. I’ll come back to it shortly.
That quote came to mind earlier this week when I received an e-mail from a General Aviation News reader who took me to task for using the term “steam gauges” in reference to round, analog gauges that are still mounted in the panels of many thousands of aircraft. He took the term as a slight, which was certainly not my intent. In fact, I am an official, old guy. I like round faces with clearly visible indicators mounted in their center. Steam gauges forever, I say!At 52 years of age, I’ve still got a few years left in me, I hope. And as a techno-geek, I have a real appreciation for what glass cockpits bring to the pilot who is truly proficient with them. But that’s not the point. A chasm has opened up in GA that pits the digital information gatherers against the analog information gatherers. And that’s a problem, because it isn’t a battle that’s happening in isolation.
In my work as a CFI, I routinely come in contact with other CFIs who have an attitude about Sport Pilots that’s less than warm and fuzzy. More than a few times I’ve encountered a CFI who is openly, and proudly, belligerent about the certificate and those who hold it.
This is bad. No, that’s too weak a sentiment. Let me take another whack at the issue in an attempt to make this point more clearly for anyone who might miss the subtext. The battle hardened “us against them” mindset of is really, REALLY bad, counterproductive, cannibalistic, and ultimately self-defeating. The GA community has enough hurdles to clear in order to survive, let alone thrive. We need to foster an attitude of mutual respect and support, not a culture of nit-picking, back-biting, and open derision.
At least in this respect, we are our own worst enemy. And we have to stop it. There are too many natural divisions for us to start picking at subsets of our brethren for being in the wrong camp. If this were to continue, we run the very real risk of gutting our community and killing any chance of expanding the net to capture more aviation minded newcomers. Seriously, why would anyone pursue aviation as a hobby or a vocation if they found early in their airport experience that they might open themselves up to verbal abuse and finger-pointing just because they chose to train for the wrong certificate, in the wrong aircraft, potentially at the wrong flight school, located on the wrong airport?
In a misguided attempt to establish the dominance of our own personal preferences, at least some of us are poking holes in the pool that gives us life. We need to learn to welcome all comers, regardless of which certificate they want to train for – they’ve chosen to get into aviation! Celebrate that! Don’t welcome them into the fold with an insulting snide remark. Instead, welcome them with open arms and let them know that they can find support and friendship on the field as well as in the air. Rather than denigrate their choices, show them how happy you are to have a new member of the community, then feel free to share your enthusiasm for your own choices. For all you know they weren’t even aware that the option you chose was available to them.
There are a lot of disparate factions in the aviation community. If we band together as a united front with a positive message and a supportive attitude, we win. But if we insist on splintering off the ultralighters from the rest of us, the taildragger pilots from the tricycle gear crowd, the VFR crew from their IFR cousins, the single-engine fliers from the multi-engine drivers, the landplane fans from the seaplane devotees – we’re going to find ourselves in a very lonely place, with increasing pressure to kill our industry and no support left on the inside to fight it.
Which brings me back to Patrick Henry, the man who famously said, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” when those two options were absolutely literal choices. This founding American put together a series of words that we should all hold close to our hearts, keep them near to our minds, and commit the concept to our daily actions on and off the airport. Henry said, “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. But I can live it, and in the long run, I’m pretty sure that’s the point.
You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.