Given the option of taking the pessimistic view or the optimistic view, I’ll more often than not take the brighter alternative. I prefer to believe that one person who is willing to put in significant effort can make a difference. There are plenty of examples of this phenomenon in our history, and I will refrain from listing them lest someone get the mistaken impression that I am hoping to somehow link myself to greater men (and women) who have come before me. The point is, you can do great things if you try.
Then again, you can simply throw up your hands and quit, too. There’s certainly plenty of room in between those two extremes, but in general, you’ve got the choice of either actively working toward a solution to the problems you see, or passively letting them roll over you.
It sounds somewhat bleak when you see it put down in words like that. But there you have it, my own personal thumbnail sketch of the realities involved in political and social activism. Get in the game and work hard to have an impact on the outcome, or be content to sit in the stands and take whatever comes your way.
That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Sadly, it’s not. Nope. For those who decide to get involved and try to steer the ship of state (or the airport, or your local EAA chapter, or any other organization or group you might choose) there is a bumpy road ahead. Prepare yourself accordingly.
If nothing else I endeavor to be honest with you, the reader, always. In the big ranking system of life, inspiration should come in a distant second to integrity, every time. And so while I often rave about the tremendous benefits of Gilbert Field, my home airport, I also try to make it clear that you should feel just as enthusiastically about your airport, wherever that might be. I am not unique, or at least I shouldn’t be. Certainly you are at least as capable as I ever was. For goodness sake, I was a D student in high school. Based on that alone almost everyone has better credentials than I do.
In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you however, for all the pride and bombast and mass marketing appeal I heap on my home airport — I am not universally loved for my efforts. In fact, there are some, only a few thankfully, but some who think of me as an anti-aviation irritant who should be removed from office. Considering the office I hold pays somewhat less than minimum wage, there are days when I’m willing to take them up on that suggestion, too. But I don’t. And I will tell you why.
I believe in the value of general aviation. That’s not a casual position in my case, either. It’s my unshakable position that general aviation has so many benefits, and is so poorly understood by the public at large, that in almost every major aspect of municipal interest it is the low hanging fruit. General aviation is the industry where the greatest gains can be made for the least investment in time, money, and resources.
Effort, well that’s another story entirely. Making real change happen in most communities, especially as it pertains to aviation, is a workload and a half. But it’s worth it. Oh yes, it’s absolutely worth it.
As an anti-drug incentive program for youth and adults alike, general aviation is unparalleled. As an educational resource, it’s broad spectrum of opportunities lend it the ability to grab the attention of even the most bored and disinterested student, regardless of their age or background. As an economic engine for the community at large, it’s got real power to provide jobs, an expanded tax base, and economic opportunity that few other industries can offer.
So I will say with absolute candor, go out and do your best. Change the world. Bring aviation to its best possible position in your town, or your city, or your county. Your home town will be better for it in the long run. Just be aware that you will not win accolades and awards for your efforts. In fact, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in elective office as I have been, you may find that your best efforts, and even your biggest successes, put you out on the street when the next election rolls around.
Learn to live with that and you’ll be just fine. Because when you step into the arena of public service, even if it’s general aviation related public service, doing the job really well often translates to losing the job in exchange for your attempts. That’s really not such a bad trade-off, though. Because you get to go home with your head held high, and the knowledge that you did the best you could to help your neighbors, and an industry that desperately needs the attention of people just like you.
Yeah, I can live with that. And I’ll bet you can too.
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. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.