If you’re going to advocate for general aviation, or pretty much anything else for that matter, you should probably get comfortable with the notion that you’re going to hear the word “no” from time to time. Frankly, you’re probably going to hear it a lot, so get used to it. Hate it. Get frustrated, annoyed, and maybe even a little bit mad about it. But don’t give up and go home. “No” isn’t the end of anything.
More often than not, “no” is just a first step. Often, it’s a first step taken by people who have no idea what you truly have to offer them. Sadly, those people are frequently too dim, too lacking in creativity, and too slavishly devoted to following the party line – even when they don’t understand what the party line entails – to do anything that requires actual independent thought.
Ruminate on this case in point, if you will. Several years ago the airport manager position opened up at my favorite airport, so I applied for the job. Now when I say I applied, I don’t mean that I scribbled an application on a piece of paper and slid it under the door to the Human Resources department. Sure, I filled out the official application form. But I slipped that into a folder that also included a cover letter, a resume, and letters of recommendation from nearly two dozen aviation professionals who all willingly attested to their belief that I had at least a clue about what I was doing in the realm of aviation.
I may have also included a listing of my certificates and ratings. Not that I brag about that sort of thing very often. But heck, if you’ve got four FAA tickets in your wallet and you’re applying for an aviation-related opening, it’s worth at least mentioning that you’ve done a pre-flight or two, perhaps driven a rivet on occasion, and have the ability to string together a coherent sentence on the topic of general aviation, if the need arises.
You may be entertained to know that I didn’t get the job. Worse, I wasn’t even brought in for an interview. Seriously. Not even an interview. The official logic behind this slight was that I did not possess the minimum requirements to warrant an interview.
Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. I can live with rejection when it’s warranted. So can most of us. It’s only natural. After all, if Neil Armstrong or Story Musgrave, or Al Haynes had filled the opening, I’d have been thrilled to know my package shared the same file drawer with theirs, even if only momentarily. They all outclass me by a mile. I stand in awe of them. And why not? They’re sharp, accomplished guys who should absolutely win out in a one-on-one competition with a piker like me.
That’s not what happened, though. The new airport manager, the one with the credentials to get an interview, was a non-pilot, non-mechanic, non-writer with no real general aviation experience. This was a sharp individual with real potential, I’m sure. But this wasn’t the person who was likely to fire up the airport community and get them all excited about the incredible potential of our little non-towered airport. And within a matter of months, the new airport manager was gone.
The next airport manager — another one who had the credentials to get an interview — was an administrative aide with no interest in, experience with, or desire to get involved with aviation in any way. This airport manager held on to the job for considerably longer, however the airport languished on life support during the tenure of this one, too.
Do you see a trend?
Today, nearly a decade later, I hold elective office and have the opportunity to be very involved in the marketing and economic development of that same airport. I bypassed the interview process entirely and went straight to the public. So far, so good.
And while there are bumps in the road now and then, it’s absolutely accurate to say that things are improving steadily – and that’s just a start. The long-term plans for the airport have for the first time been viewed and discussed by people who actually have an understanding of, an affection for, and an investment in aviation. Imagine it! The airport is being run by professionals who either are aviation-centric, or accept the input of aviation professionals who have the long-term, best interests of the airport at heart.
This process didn’t come about quickly, or without the occasional sleepless night, or while we all stood arm in arm singing “Kumbayah.” There were rough patches. It’s not over yet, either — not by a long shot. There is still work to do — lots of work to do, and plenty of opportunity to share the load with others who are willing to lend a helping hand.
But the “No” that was loud and clear and resounding at the beginning of this process is not much more than an amusing story today. It certainly has not had the effect it was intended to have.
I did not go away. I did not give up, and the people who stood with me and believed as I did that the airport could be better, more inviting, more professional, and of greater value to the community as a whole, well, they kept at it, too. It seems that by being persistent and working together we’ve been able to turn the tables and get things on the right track for a change.
“No.” As a concept, it’s over-rated, so when you hear it, remember that I didn’t even qualify for an interview when I got started in this and, truthfully, you’ve probably got better credentials than I do. So go to it. Find your passion, seek out your niche, and do what you can to help move general aviation into a better position in your neighborhood. You’ll hear “No” a lot. But at least you know now that you aren’t alone. And now you know for sure that a big bold “No” doesn’t mean much in the long run, as long as you don’t let it.
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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