Let silence reign

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.

My local newspaper, The News Chief, ran a piece in its Reader’s Rants and Raves section this week that read as follows; “Where are the clear-thinking Winter Haven leaders who are looking out for the everyday residents? We are saddled with an enormous airport – a white elephant that serves not even the pilots…”

Now the News Chief is owned by the New York Times Co., which means that a national audience could be exposed to this sentiment. Then again, the News Chief is available online, as most newspapers are these days. You can read the piece yourself on their opinion page if you’d like. So can anyone else. And what do I propose we, the aviation friendly public, do to correct this skewed perspective in the public mind? Nothing. I suggest we do nothing at all.

Let me explain.As one of the Winter Haven leaders this screed asks about I can tell you that I take absolutely no offense at the suggestion that Gilbert Field is a white elephant. I disagree emphatically, of course. But I don’t take offense. You see, the suggestion itself makes a terrific case against getting excited or motivated by this poorly thought out expression of misdirected anger. The originator of this sentiment tears down their own argument by making such a broad, unsupportable statement that nobody with any real understanding of the airport, or the financing of it, could possibly agree with them in any meaningful way.

Consider the men and women who work on the field. Certainly they have a different perspective on the value of the airport. From the part-time line service workers, to the fuel delivery crew, the restaurant staff, the mechanics, the flight instructors, and even the handful of entrepreneurs who have set up shop on the field – I am confident that not one of them feels the airport is a waste of space or a white elephant that should be done away with.

Unemployment is hard. We’ve had enough of that around these parts.

I wonder if the originator of this message included in their thought process the motivation of the residents of this area who live here specifically because of the airport. Gilbert Field is the reason I live here, to be sure. And I am not alone. There are dozens of people who live here specifically because of their affection for the airport, the businesses, and the people who populate the airport on a regular basis. Certainly they wouldn’t agree that investment in the airport is a waste.

I have to wonder whether there was any consideration given to the tourist trade or business travelers who fly directly into Gilbert Field rather than standing in long lines at Orlando or Tampa International? I’m not sure if the writer is of the opinion that all those airplanes parked on the ramp are owned by the same eccentric millionaire who just enjoys shuffling them around from time to time, but I can testify that I have met people from all over the world strolling through the FBO doors at our uncontrolled, general aviation airport – and I’ve been pleased to have the opportunity to make a positive impression on each of them.

There are times when it is imperative that pilots engage in the war of words and the battle for votes. For some of us the safety of our livelihood depends on it. For others we merely risk the loss of recreational freedoms that we’re not ready to give up on a whim. But when the attack is spurious, or when it is just plain old mean spirited, there is nothing to be gained from giving life to the argument by perpetuating it.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, sometimes, silence really is golden. In a case like this, I would highly recommend it.

You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com


  1. donald miller says

    A a small businessman in Florida based at KVDF, I have many customers throughout Florida and travel weekly throughout the state in my C-210. It is sad but true that the politicans don’t take the time or effort to realize what great assests airports are to the community. Counties that have developed the assest have generated HUNDREDS of jobs and significantly added to their tax revenue in based customers and touristism. Use KZPH(Zephyrhills) and KDED(Deland) as examples that draw international tourists to these areas. I have seen dozens or airports close in Florida in the past 20 years and hope the pilot community can open the eyes of these politians or vote them out.

  2. says

    KGIF-Gilbert Field. It was my first cross country destination. Just outside the busy “Class B” airspace around Orlando. To say it is a “white elephant” is the sign of little to no research in the matter. Gilbert field is home to quite a few businesses. Brown’s Seaplane base is just one of the businesses who thrive due to the unique location adjoining the lake. Winter Haven Air Services, Inc., Preston Aviation & Tailwheels, Etc. Inc. would also argue that they have a good reason to be there, to support the Aircraft based on the field, totalling 169 aircraft. of the aircraft, 147 are single engine airplanes, 16 are multi engine airplanes, 2 are jet airplanes and finally, 4 gliders round out the residents at last count. There is an average of 164 flight operations per day. Of those operations, 58% is local general aviation and 42% transient general aviation. Not your garden variety white elephant!

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