The conundrum of community

We who write about general aviation have a tendency to use a particular term to describe the lot of us. It is fairly common for us to describe the collective bunch as “the aviation community.” The intent is to bond us together, at least in the reader’s mind. And in many cases the term is literal — there is an actual community of aviators, or aviation enthusiasts, who live and work and recreate in close proximity to each other.

That’s often a good thing. Heck, almost any self-initiated community of people is a good thing. There are exceptions of course. The Molotov cocktail makers community is perhaps a less desirable group than the chocolate chip cookie bakers community. But in the big scheme of things, communities of like-minded folks are worth the effort. And there’s the magic word. Effort. Nothing of any real worth gets done without some effort on someone’s part. Too often the group of doers is small.

When you really think about it, it’s amazing how much gets done in most communities – especially when you consider how few people are really putting effort into building or maintaining the community in the first place.

My city, like most cities, thrives on volunteerism. Whether the initiative is a Christmas Festival in the downtown park, or an Arbor Day tree giveaway, or an educational program about recycling, it’s primarily volunteers who do the heavy lifting to get the job done. Unfortunately, it’s the same few dozen volunteers who get busy rolling up their sleeves, pitching in to help, and putting in the hours to make sure each event or initiative catches fire and really happens. That’s too bad, too, because there’s no limit on the number of volunteers who can participate or the number of tasks that could be made easier with another set of hands to do the work.

This is an area where the general aviation community really shines – volunteerism. Just consider the big dog of all aviation events in North America:  AirVenture. It’s a mere two months away at this point, but the crews in Oshkosh aren’t waiting for the last minute to get in gear. There’s all sorts of planning and logistics work going on and much of it done by volunteers. And when the gates are thrown open July 23, the grounds of Wittman Regional Airport will be teeming with volunteers who will be directing traffic, supporting campers, selling tickets, driving shuttles, picking up garbage, and doing every other job that’s required of a small city that pops up overnight, then all but disappears only days later.

SUN ’n FUN enjoys the same benefits. People come out of the woodwork, traveling from all corners of the globe to attend these massive fly-in events. A staggering number of people come to lend a hand, however. They’re not all taking, thousands of them are giving. They give their time, their money, their effort, and their best intentions to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Imagine if the rest of the country, heck, imagine if the rest of the world, took a page from our book and stood tall with a helping hand extended in the general direction of anyone who needed it. What problems could we solve, what suffering could we alleviate, what catastrophes could be avoided if the general population stopped asking, “What’s in it for me?” and started taking the general aviation community’s stance of, “What can I do to help?”

It is immodest to brag, certainly. And none of us (okay, few of us) are bold enough, or brash enough to climb up on a platform and shout out to the crowds below: “Hey, look at me. I’m making a difference.” So I will do it for you. I’ll say it here in print for all the world to see. Because you are making a difference, and you are worth taking notice of.

The general aviation community has a history of holding together through thick and thin, in good times and in bad, for one simple reason: It is a true community of people who are dedicated to making sure the guy (or girl) next door has what they need to be successful, when they need it. Whether it’s prepping a student for a checkride, manning the grill at a local pancake breakfast, or standing watch over warbirds tied down overnight at a fly-in, general aviation enthusiasts tend to look no further than themselves when they see that a job needs to be done. And because of that dedication, and that acceptance of personal responsibility to make things happen, rather than wait for things to happen, you deserve a pat on the back, a tip of the hat, and a sincere thank you for being a part of the team that makes all this work year after year.

So when someone asks you if you are a member of the community, go ahead and puff out your chest, raise your face to the sun, and say with great pride, “Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I am a general aviation enthusiast.”

From my perspective, that really means something. I hope it matters to you, 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.

 

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Comments

  1. Colin M says

    Based on the positioning of this column’s headline in today’s AOPA Aviation eBrief (something totally outside of this author’s control), I was hoping that this post would have some suggestions on how to volunteer for one’s community by donating one’s assets as a pilot — i.e. fly for charity.  I’d love to be an Angel Flight pilot, but I guess that it will be about a decade before I have the 500 hours that my region’s AF organization requires.

    This sort of volunteerism really does a lot for GA.  Then puffing out one’s chest in order to brag that we’re a GA pilot who flies for charity gets something done — it raises awareness of the benevolent side of GA.  I agree that boasting about being a pilot to someone who is unfamiliar with GA will not come off well.

    • Vayuwings says

      Colin, while you’re building hours maybe consider flying for PilotsnPaws if your inclined. I try and fly a rescue dog to a ‘furever’ home whenever I plan a cross-country. It’s rewarding and fun to bring such joy to an anxious family and save a dog/cat from euthansia too. It’s not my intent, but some folks see GA in action and are pleased by its utility when we deliver the new pet.

  2. Vayuwings says

    The last thing we need in GA among all of the challenges we face, is to puff out our chests, announce with pride – are we trying to accelerate the fall?- and tell the world of our wonderfulness. This has got to be one of the strangest petitions of promoting survival I have ever heard.

    Volunteerism is not for most people. Never will be. Its percentage has remained the same throughout history just like the percentage of people who fly has remained the same, and is declining now. Not addressing costs, societal changes, obesity, fading interest for the effort, and a host of other walls to the student pilot is naive and uninformed.

    The youth of today, and others, are used to easy entrance to quick and satisfying rewards of their time and effort in anything they have interest in. I have watched teenagers win an online game for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and within minutes their winnings are direct deposited into their bank account. Learning to fly nowadays is very old school, huge, prolonged effort and large sums of money are required for, to them, vague and undefined rewards.

    A program of volunteers that can put together some well-defined rewards in balance with effort for our youth, convincingly across the nation, would be far more influencial to me than an extra hand flipping flapjacks on a windy Sunday morning at an airport.

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