Occupy General Aviation

You’ve seen them on the news. They’re mostly young, but a broad spectrum of age brackets is evident in the full group. Often angry, frequently lacking focus, they have successfully done something the general aviation market has been loathe to do — attract massive media attention.

On that score they’re winning the battle. First it was the Tea Party, most recently it’s the Occupy movement. The fact that there is no specific leader to interview and no published agenda they’re attempting to accomplish doesn’t seem to hurt them in the least. These grass roots political movements have popped up and are gaining a following for the simple reason that the participants speak up, speak out, and persist when others might have gotten tired and gone home. In short, they have drive.

In some cases there aren’t all that many people involved. As an example, some estimates of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators puts their totals in the 1,000 or less category. Considering that nearly 9 million people live in the immediate area, that’s not much of a mob. Their persistence has paid off, however. They’re on the news daily and they are getting the word out — even if not all their members have a clear understanding of what the word is.

We could learn a thing of two from these folks.

All this has me wondering if we old fogies that make up the general aviation world could emulate their success and build on it. Of course we have an advantage: We have an undeniably important service to sell, and we can articulate our message well. We know what we’re trying to say and we know exactly why it’s so important that GA continue to thrive.

As I make this recommendation I find myself reflecting on a chat I had over lunch recently with my friends, Earle and Beverly. They’re both retired and neither of them is wealthy by any means. He’s retired law enforcement and she’s a retired public school teacher. They are truly wonderful people however, and they’re general aviation pilots.

Earle and Beverly periodically work with Mercy Flight Southeast, which is a division of the Air Charity Network. Their role is to pull their Cessna 172 out of the hangar, fire it up, and fly people who require medical care at far flung institutions at least part of the way on their journey. Most recently they transported a mother and 4-year-old daughter who have to travel on a regular basis between a medical facility in Ohio and their home in central Florida.

“It doesn’t cost them a penny.” says Earle. And that’s an important facet of our story. These are average American general aviation enthusiasts who absorb the full cost of transporting an individual, a couple, or a family from where they are to where they need to be. General aviation is literally making high quality health care available to people who would not be able to avail themselves of it without access to these aircraft and their pilots.

A few weeks ago this mother and daughter traveled from Ohio to Florida for no charge. They began their trip in a Cessna 182 that flew them to North Carolina. It was there that they transferred to another airplane and another pilot. On that leg a Piper Cherokee flew them to Georgia. That’s where Earle and Beverly met them with the Cessna 172. That flight brought them nearly to their doorstep, a general aviation airport in central Florida where grandma could meet them right out on the ramp, move them into a car, and head for the house.

You just can’t get that kind of service outside of general aviation. And you know as well as I do that almost nobody outside of our little clique of fellow enthusiasts is even aware this sort of thing happens. But it does. In fact it happens routinely all across the country.

Perhaps it is time for us to Occupy General Aviation and invite the press out to see it for themselves. Of course we could do it with style. We can drive out for a portion of the day so that we can have lunch, or take a quick flight, or simply interact with our fellow GA enthusiasts in a casual manner. In that respect, we would more or less be conducting ourselves in the same way we do on any other day.

Then again, if we invited the press and we introduced them to the Earles and Beverlys that exist at every airport in America, that would be different. If we let those media people know that lives are touched by general aviation in ways that they’ve never imagined — and that we GAer’s absorb every penny of the cost ourselves — well maybe that hundred dollar hamburger talk might get a little less condescending in the press.

Maybe if a corporate PR person invited a representative of the news media to come out and see a flight associated with the Corporate Angel Network load up to take a cancer patient to get the treatment they need, we’d hear a different slant to the news the next time a politician suggests that corporate aviation is fueled by greed and wanton excess. If a reporter were present when a Flying Paws flight took off to transport a rescued animal, they might develop a soft spot in their hearts for the pilots and helpers who take on this work, as well as for the special needs animals being assisted. It’s even possible that a newsperson who participates in a Freedom Flight to reunite siblings separated in foster care, or to transport advocates for abused and neglected children, they might start to see the general aviation airport as something other than a playground of the rich.

It is time for us to stand up, speak out, and Occupy General Aviation with the kind of zeal that people are showing all over the country to support the political agenda that is important to them.

If GA is important to you, I strongly urge you to send an email, make a phone call, and invite the press to meet you for coffee and a muffin at the local airport. Amaze them with a few introductions and stories about what general aviation is really about. They don’t know, but you do. Tell the world!

It may sound cliché, but it’s the simple truth of the matter. If not you, who? If not today, when? Start.

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.


  1. TheIMCRadio says

    October 26th at 6 PM (EST) – “Plane Talk” LIVE – Can General
    Aviation Pilot community stand up, speak out, and “Occupy General
    Aviation” with the kind of zeal that people are showing all over the
    country to support the political agenda that is important to them. Is GA
    important to you? Should you send an email, make a phone call, and
    invite the press to meet you for coffee and a muffin at the local
    airport. Could you amaze them with a few introductions and stories about
    what general aviation is really about? They don’t know, but you do.
    Should we tell the world!

    Listen at: http://imcclubs.cloverpad.org/radionew

  2. Strikemama says

    In responce to Rock:  Even the guy who posted those demands says at the beginning these are only his views and his blog.  Occupy Wall street is not organized enough to have real demands.  The fact that the Nazi’s and the Communists are trying to tack on to this movement should indicate that it is much stronger than they are.  It has become a international movement with out a head, it askes the questions of Wall steet and the government, maybe they have become to much in bed with each other.  Not just in the USA but world wide.  Three years and nobody has gone to jail over what happened to our economic system, that was caused by Wall steet greed.  I think it’s time something happened, new laws on finacial transactions, rating agencies figure in this strongly.  We were all sold a bill of goods, and we have to pay for it, while the people who made fortunes off of derivitives and betting they would fail are still here and going on to the next big score.  We played by the rules and lost our jobs, houses and in some cases our families.  Why haven’t the rules been changed to protect us, why have the Wall street people still at work when we can’t find any.  Something is wrong in America, our govenment isn’t taking the responciblity it was given to make sure 1929 wouldn’t happen again.  Corperations own our government and it is time to take it back, vote the bastards out, get some new people in who don’t have such a agenda of greed and business as usual.  I mean in both parties.

  3. Kevin Wiggins says

    I think the majority of “bloggers” have missed Mr. Beckett’s point.  If you enjoy GA and would like to see it either continue as it is or improve…speak up.  I believe the comments below are an excellent example of one of our greatest issues as an American Nation.  We are too eager to squabble and toss our arbitrary opinion around, but unable to adequately address an issue.  Fly safe.

  4. Paul says

    Great idea: General Aviation should whine its way to prosperity.
    The trouble is that in public discourse you have to win the argument. We haven’t made the argument, so we can’t expect to win it.
    The Occupy Wall St. crowd has given up and want the rest of us to just “give”.
    Join them if you want, but some of us still believe that if something is possible, it’s possible in the USA.

  5. Ed Sunderland says

    General aviation again is getting a bad rap from a guy who cannot pass an E-Verify Check, none other than Barak Obama. He has vilified GA, the American public past and present, Las Vegas, Oil Companies, Conservatives, Allies, Successful Individuals (unless they support his campaign) ATM machines, and now he is flushing with envy over this Wall Street BS.

    These people really haven’t a clue which is why I reckon Barak Obama likes em.
    He speaks fluent gibberish too as the Commies, Maouists, Marxist, and Socialists glam on with the Obama Media looking fondly over the mess.

    We would never get a good shake from the Obama Mafia Media unless that media person is or was a Pilot. And, oddly enough there are a few.

    One reason general aviation is in the ditch is because of fuel prices for one thing. Obama said, “under my administration, energy prices would necessarily skyrocket” and he made good on that promise! The hourly rate for fuel burn is now astronomic. I received my Pilots License in 1978 when you could rent a Cherokee 140 or a 172 for less than $40 an hour wet. I remember paying $1.33 a gallon for 100 LL at Tucumcari while cruising out to California in 1991. Today we are looking at the $5.00 range and as long as this administration remains in office, we can expect foul weather ahead. 

    Jamie, I appreciate your zeal but it is going to take some time to recover from the malaise this administration has dealt us.      

  6. Strikemama says

    In responce to the last comment:  You can still buy a new airplane for the price of a house, problem is wages haven’t gone up in real buying power since 1975 so we can’t really afford the house either.  I think that’s what Occupy Wall Steet is trying to say aswell.  Our kids are looking at a future unlike our own.  They have been left with the debt we have created from generations of politicians who called them selves  conservatives, and yet spent money like frat boys having a party.  Many of them have done what we told them to do, go to college get skills and get a good job.  But those jobs aren’t there anymore, the pay is miserable, student loans hang over their heads, companys demand loyalty but don’t show any in return.  Management greed has taken down the stabilty of our currency and investments, making the future of our country in doubt.  Our government has been bought by lobbists and corporations.  When will all this hatred end and politicians start acting for the betterment of America and it’s people?

  7. Paul says

    Ease up, folks. Mr. Beckett is making an analogy to encourage us to be a little more pro- active about the benefits of general aviation.

  8. David T. says

    Occupy Wall Street isn’t a good example to use. It is a poorly defined organization that could get out of control at any moment. 

    In a WSJ poll, 33% advocated violence to achieve a political end. I don’t believe that represents us at all. 

  9. Geoffrey Sanders says

    I must disagree with the previous comments.  They’re attempting to politicize and polarize whereas the author attempted the opposite.  What does GA share in common with  these disparate movements?  I would much prefer to see GA become more democratized, i.e. more available to the general public, and not just to those who have profited under present politics.

    Remember when it was possible for a “little guy” to pay no more for a new airplane than he did for an average house?  Not now, they can’t, unless they build it themselves.  But lots of “little guys” still love to fly, both for business and pleasure.  Political polarization pushes those folks away and gives the impression that anyone with a pilot’s license is a greedy redneck, and that’s no more true than your characterizing the Occupy Wall Street movement as a bunch of “filthy communists.”

    I urge you to re-read Beckett’s words and see how we all might gain from less name-calling and more searching for common interests.

  10. Don says

    Jamie,  Please don’t equate GA with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.  We’ll never take to the streets to demand that anarchy reign.  The media will never give GA hours and hours of attention…no political ramifications for them to taut.  GA is predominantly formed by self-reliant individuals that are freedom-loving.  That doesn’t sell like the fools in the street looking for something to destroy.

  11. Kent Misegades says

    Jamie,  I understand the message here, but to include the patriots of the Tea Party movement with the Marxist slackers of the filthy, confused “occupiers” is borderline slander.  I am sure that was not your intent.  If anything, the message of the Tea Party is the same one you advocate for GA – less government regulation, more freedom for all, individual responsibility.  Perhaps better would be for the aviation alphabets to strongly endorse true Conservative candidates and the Tea Party movement in general.  Now that would garner some media attention!

    • capitalist says


      The only reason the news media is covering the “occupiers” is because they are left wing, marxist, communist.  Aircraft owners are hardworking people who have succeeded under capitalism. The media cannot stomach General Aviation becuase of that.

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