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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.

What would you say if you were booked to make a speech titled, “The Value of Aviation?” Imagine for a moment that your audience is made up entirely of the movers and shakers of your community. Business leaders, elected officials, bureaucrats, and high level employees from the private sector will all be gathered to lend an ear to what you have to say in support of aviation.

I know what I would say. In fact, I’m about 75% along the path to knowing what I’m going to say, because I will be making that speech in a matter of weeks, to the East Polk Committee of 100, right here in Polk County, Florida.

For those who are unaware, Polk County is the home of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), which is the host field for Sun ‘n Fun.

It may seem peculiar that there would be any question about the value of aviation in a county that benefits from such a massive influx of aviation-minded folks once a year. Sadly, the question is out there, and it is not an idle one for most businessmen and women.

A disturbing number of public officials seem to have a skeptical view of general aviation, too. And so I got the nod, and I picked up the gauntlet. As an ardent aviation enthusiast, I have no shortage of stories to tell, analogies to make, and suggestions to share. But I also have a regular readership that is reasonably bright, highly experienced, and just as enthusiastic on the topic as I am. So I intend to make use of you in my presentation. I’m not afraid to ask for help when it’s warranted. Which brings me to my question – what would you say? Tell me, and I just might use your idea in that speech. If I’m in a really good mood, I might even admit that you passed me notes and suggestions – via the Internet.

I can comfortably talk about the global economic impact of aviation. Heck, overnight shipping makes the smallest mom and pop retailer every bit as powerful and competitive in the market as a major chain store might be. And I can speak of tourism (I am in Florida after all), and flight training, and personal business travel. I can sing the praises of all those GA benefits – but I see the world from a very specific perspective – mine! I want to see it from yours too – at least this week as I prepare to make the case in front of a room full of big ‘ol muckety mucks who just might look down their noses at aviation for the reasons we all fear they might – they misunderstand GA to the point that their view of the industry and ours are almost totally unrecognizably divergent.

So share your idea. Throw something at the wall and we’ll all see if it sticks. Let’s run it up the flagpole, and I’ll promise to give you an idea of how many people in the room saluted after I’m all done.

This may be your best chance to put words in the mouth of a politician — an aviation friendly politician at that. So don’t hold back. Give me your best shot, and I promise that I’ll pick the best ideas to pass along.

The value of aviation? That’s the question. What’s your take on it?

You can comment below or email Jamie at


  1. says

    What about “Pilots and Paws” ? They transport rescue dogs to new owners. Also there is the organization that flies Veterans to visit relatives or to hospitals. I can’t remember the name. Then there is Angel Flights that fly very sick people to get operations or special medical treatment. These are volunteer organizations.

  2. says

    Freedom. That one simple word characterizes what we are privileged to enjoy as Americans. It is also a living definition of what aviation means to those of us who can and do fly. GA affords the entrepreneur the freedom to go where he needs to whenever he has to without concern for schedules, connections, body scans, or the fat guy in the middle seat. For the recreational flyer, there is no better way to retire from our burdens for awhile and put the world in perspective by observing just how small our issues are from our unique vantage point on high.

    The flip side of freedom, of course, is responsibility and all of us who enjoy personal flight have the responsibility to fly safely and to protect, defend and advocate for our right to the sky.

    I hope that you publish your comments after your presentation.

  3. Jack Thompson says

    I have a couple of less-expressed ideas regarding GA that might be useful or unusual.

    First, personal flight offers a change of pace perspective on the earth and humanity. From on high, it all takes on a different cast as one sees a much bigger picture, a buch bigger slice of the pie than typical.
    One particular view and the thoughts it generates for me is when I fly along Route I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus (almost a straight line) at night, I can see about 25 miles of what look like continuous headlights and tail lights. I then do a little quick order of magnitude math and the oil consumption/flow rate makes sense in its staggering size in a different way than just looking at the number.

    Another unique aspect of GA/aviation is that it is perhaps the only transportation arena that the consumer can safely and legally utilize all of the performance built into the machine you are in and controlling. Certainly a far different situation than being in a high performance sportscar or on a crotch-rocket motorcycle.

    The value to society/the general public of the county airport is one that I have wrestled with, and I think the most compelling and univeral value of the facility is its value in disaster management and mitigation. The aiport is the gateway to the area when all the normal venues are compromised. When helicopters, C-130’s and C-17s are the angels of mercy, the airport with its facilities and capacious hangars are the hub of hope and the staging area for relief. (providing the airport is located above the flood plain…not always the case)

    Finally, the right of a qualified individual to fly with a minimum of oversight and regulation hs become, in the 107 years of manned mechanical flight, become one of the fundamental freedoms enjoyed by Americans that are the envy of much of the world, certainly the envy of the old world (ask any of the Germans who vacation here to fly around for 2 weeks in a rented airplane). While we don’t have a second amendment to the constitution to define and protect this right, like the NRA, those of us who fly hold that freedom to be dear, and we are typically careful and responsible in our exercise of this freedom and right.

    Those are my thoughts- good luck with your speaking opportunity!

    Jsck Thompson PE

  4. Mike Arman says

    I’d LOVE to have a copy of this speech – I’ll be talking to my own town’s politicos/movers/shakers/local media about the value of GA.

    This would be a wonderful resource. It could be made available to volunteer pro-aviation speakers (that’s us, people) as a framework for our own talks, a collection of “bullet points” which we can add to or delete to suit our own municipality or audience.

    I’ve found that the biggest problem is that we are talking only to ourselves, nobody outside the GA scene has any idea what we are doing or the value of GA. We need to get OUR word out so when something comes up that affects GA, we get a fair shake based on knowledge, not a raw deal based on ignorance (example the recent article in the Atlantic Mag, that jerk’s a disgrace to journalism and reflects horribly on the magazine – doesn’t ANYBODY fact check there?).

  5. says

    My own anecdotal experience has demonstrated that GA plays a vital role in transporting patients requiring transportation to obtain needed specialized medical care. Organizations such as Florida’s Angel Flight Soouteast and the southeast’s regional Mercy Flight Southeast are just two of the major charitable organizations matching up volunteer pilots with needy passengers.

    For more information, you may contact either Blake Mathis, CEO, or any of its directors — information available at the website.

    Alan M. Hoffberg
    Mercy Flight Southeast
    Angel Flight Southeast

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