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. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com.
If you want to make headway in the realm of politics, you need to have advocates working on your side. Some advocates are paid, some are volunteers, and some are just out there working independently, speaking their mind and doing their best.
To really win the day, you need all those advocates working, speaking, writing, and making their case to the public at large, and the political powers that truly run things behind the scenes. General aviation is fortunate to have some stellar advocates working on its behalf. We could use more though.
Hey! Are you available? I’ll bet you’d be a great advocate.
It’s not a casual question. We each have a responsibility to carry our portion of the load. Some of us carry extra tonnage, and do a great job of it. But to be honest, most of the GA community is relatively quiet, or they speak enthusiastically in support of GA only in settings where the choir is already in attendance. As an example, it makes little sense to beat the drum about the importance of GA at your local pilot’s association meeting – you’re talking to people who are already converts. It’s a better use of your time to make that case at a Chamber of Commerce get-together, or a Rotary meeting, or when you’re at the VFW hall, or any number of other non-aviation specific public gathering places.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many men and women have engaged in serious conversations about the benefits of aviation with me, while attending a softball game our kids were playing in.
You have to make your move when the opportunity presents itself. And to be absolutely clear, the opportunity presents itself every time you leave the house.
My mailbox brought me an e-mail this week that illustrates the point beautifully. But first, allow me to digress.
With the House and Senate tussling over budget concerns, talk has kicked up again about the General Aviation Caucus in Washington. I’m pleased and proud to say that my US House Representative, Dennis Ross, is a member of that caucus. I applaud him for it. GA is important to Florida, and to the 12th district, which Mr. Ross so ably represents. Then again, GA is important everywhere, which raises the question, is your US House Representative a member of that caucus? If you don’t know, you might want to check. And if they aren’t listed, you might want to ask them to join.
If not you, who? If not now, when? Those questions may be dangerously close to being cliché – but they’re valid. The advocate you can most readily influence to get out there and lead the charge for GA looks back at you from your bathroom mirror every day. Scheduling a meeting to talk about becoming a vocal cheerleader for the cause shouldn’t be all that difficult.
The e-mail I got this week was from Bob Stetson, who owns and manages Marlboro Airport (9B1) just west of Boston, Massachusetts. Bob’s a big GA advocate, the kind who believes in getting things done, rather than just talking about getting things done. I like that.
He included a newspaper clipping in his e-mail that I felt was worthy of passing on, at least in a condensed form. The clipping is from 2005, and includes a photo of four men, including State Representative Stephen LeDuc, who hosted the inaugural meeting of the Massachusetts Legislative Aviation Caucus. That state level caucus was designed to promote aviation in Massachusetts as an industry with real potential.
Included in the photo is good old Bob Stetson, the airport owner and manager from Marlboro. Bob is identified in the piece as, “…a driving force behind the caucus’ founding.”
Now, a case can be made for the Massachusetts caucus being an impetus to the caucus that has formed in Washington D. C. The Massachusetts version pre-dates the Washington D.C. version by a good 4 years. But whether you buy that line of thinking or not, there is no denying that a single man, from a small airport with only one short runway, brought general aviation to a much higher level of discussion in his state by being a strong and vocal proponent for his field of endeavor. You might even say he acted as an advocate.
If only more of us walked a mile or two in Bob Stetson’s shoes. How much stronger, and more viable would the public perceive GA to be?
You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com