Last week I attended a webinar. The topic was Airport Compatible Land Use. Now, if you’ve never been to a webinar, you’re really missing something — at least in theory. Technology allows large numbers of us to get together and discuss a topic of common interest, without ever having to leave our homes or offices. In that respect at least, it’s a green method of doing business.
The webinar format also has a secondary feature that is worth noting. They can be as boring as boring can be. Imagine yourself in a closed room watching a powerpoint presentation that has all the excitement and drama of a dentist’s waiting room. Now imagine that same scene but with a monotone voice-over that drones on without interruption for half an hour or so.
Yeah, there are times when you really have to muscle up to get through a webinar. And that’s a shame because the format can spread important information far and wide in an efficient, effective manner. Unfortunately, the webinar I went to wasn’t one of those. It was the other kind. The kind where you fight sleep throughout a good 80% of the program. You find yourself focused primarily on wishing you hadn’t answered the invitation in the affirmative.
Boredom is one thing. If you’re going to get involved with government work, you’re going to suffer through some boring presentations. You have to know that right up front. But inaccurate or misleading information is another thing entirely. So when the host of this little electronic shindig suggested in the closing minutes of the program that residential development was incompatible with airports, I woke right up.
That’s not right. It’s not even close to right. And that’s a problem from my perspective.
Considering that this webinar dealt with airport compatible land use, and more specifically, airport compatible land use in Florida, the state that leads the nation in airport communities (there are 73 airparks in Florida at last count), I was appalled that the official stance was that private homes and airports don’t mix.
Reality, and common sense, would suggest otherwise.
I wrote to the presenter and pointed out that a considerable number of people don’t find living on, or near, the airport to be an incompatible conflict of uses at all. In fact they like it. Given their ‘druthers, they prefer it, in fact. There are who-knows-how-many aviation enthusiasts who would love to live on or next door to an airport, given the opportunity. And that desire is good, because when aviation enthusiasts live near the airport, airport noise complaints are reduced significantly, because the new aviation friendly neighbors aren’t annoyed by the sounds of aircraft. They often take the security of the airport to heart, too, which lends itself to something of an on-site neighborhood patrol that is always up and running.
Allowing and even encouraging housing in close proximity to the airport can even benefit those who hate airplane noise, want nothing to do with the airport, and wish it would go away (myopic as that view may be). If there are aviation enthusiasts living next to the airport, the airport haters have a built-in buffer between their homes and the offending field. In effect, they live slightly farther away. And that works for everyone.
The response I received suggested that the presenter was as dull and pedantic in his one-on-one communications as he has been in the webinar. My email to him had been courteous and professional, but it expressed my deep belief that residential housing could indeed exist in harmony with an airport. I even suggested that there was significant evidence to support that opinion right now, today, all over Florida and the United States.
The answer I received was something less than inspired. To paraphrase, the message read, “Oh, okay.”
As I said, when you get involved in government you have to know that being bored is going to be part of the game plan. But inaccuracy bugs me like I can’t even begin to tell you. Especially when the homework is as easy as taking a little electronic side trip to LivingWithYourPlane.com to find out how compatible airports and private homes really are.
Will the status quo change on this point? I honestly don’t know. But I can tell you that I’ll be right in there telling the story of satisfied residents who live close enough to the airport that every new engine start brings a smile. If I’m not mistaken, satisfied residents who feel they have the freedom to live the life they want to live is an indication of good government. At least it was in the civics classes I took.
If the discussion comes up in your town you might want to weigh in, too. Personally, I’d be interested in hearing how the discussion turns out.
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.