The unavoidable nature of ‘No’

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 You can reach him at




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  1. Rod Beck says

    Granted; but ones “passion” or drive for a career or position is not onto itself what ultimately gets the job or guarantees success. Certainly these are admirable qualities and would certainly set one apart from the “rest of the pack”.

    However, I once has aspirations of becoming a professsional drummer but all the drive and determination in the world wouldn’t give me the skills, qualifications, tanlent of a Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich – moral of the story; “mans got to know his limintations” (Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Magnam Force -1973)

    Also, you might find my blog article of Mar 31st,”Passion or Profit - A Conflict of Motives”? at of interest to you.

  2. Arni1983 says

    I think the moral of the story outweighs everybody’s opinion on whether or not aviation profecionals make the best airport managers. The point was that even though he didn’t get the position initially, his drive and passion for his trade and field of study drove him from someone whom nobody would even consider as an applicant for the position, to someone who now has the authority appointed by the people to bring about good change for his aviation community.

  3. Vayuwings says

    Ok, don’t take no for an answer, thanks.

    Other than for personal therapy, though, what is the reason for pointing at the interviewers and labeling them “  dim…lacking in creativity…slaves to the party line…and lacking independent thought?”

    There are many factors at work when choosing someone for a responsible position like an airport manager, not the least of which, as Rod and Mike said, is the split-hair less than 100% of the non-flying public who surround the airport. If you’re not an accomplished PR person who knows how to keep ALL involved parties happy, and especially your employer, then you haven’t a chance, and just may end up resorting to embittered name-calling. And that does nothing but hurt our struggle to portray GA in the most favorable light we can. We seem so obtuse sometimes thinking our .02% of the population should be greater than it is. 1.86% of the population are avid model train enthusiasts – they dwarf our numbers. Let’s invite them to set up in a hangar a really cool track for everybody and see what happens. Maybe fly some RC models around the depot…And leave the logbooks and flying awards in the office.

  4. Rod Beck & Mike Dempsey says

    Nice piece – but here’s the “airport management” situation as I and Mike see it.

    First, there’s this notion that a techically qualified, i.e 20 rating, 50,000 hrs, AP/Ia, etc, has a great deal of practical application to manageing/marketing an airport, in particular, the small under utilized GA field, which is about 50%+ of those in the nation.

    The problem is MOST canidates are either “top heavy” in either avaition credentials OR management; but rarely a BALANCE of both. To be an effective manager, ideally, and if left to me, I would look for a combination of management experience/education (75-80%) and to “relate” to the avaition community, (20-25%) aviation credentials, eduation, and experience.

    One with to much aviation background, oftens leads to a “bias” interest and greater empathy towards aviation consumers, and consequently, objectivity is often loss.

    The non-aviation “by the book” type, on the other hand, that does not possess any or adequate aeronautical experience, often can’t identify or comunicate with aviation  tenants and customers wheather business or recreational.

    About 45 days ago, I did a consult for a small start-up flight operation in Northwestern Michigan. One of three airports required a busines plan – yes, a business plan, just to do a few sightseeing flights a week. The “airport manger”, a non-salaried volunteer, was a airline captain no less. Apparently, the “town fathers” decided, or were of the false impression, that if one were a highly qualified airman, he MUST be able manage a small GA airport. This gent (a male) from my interview with him and the airport chair (person), was no more qualified to manage a childrens playground let alone an airport!  “Mr. IF I CAN FLY AN AIRPLANE”, I’m qualified to do ANYTHING, short of “walking on water”, because I’M a PILOT – HELLO! Just how does this “primadona” relate to the GA folks anyway; he’s a pilot!

    At the end of the day, the airport IS a business FIRST, “plane” and simple.
    When ALL interest are taken into account from aviation consumers AND the non- flying public, about 99.9%+ of the population, and a balance is attained, you’ll than have a “win-win” outcome.

    If any GA airport is fortunate to find a manager or “rare bird” who puts sound traditional business FIRST, and SECOND, coupled with some degree of aviation knowledge, the airport will become both a financial and community success

    Or is a new “drag strip” in the airports future?  Rod and Mike –

    • Airportdesigner says

      All I have to say is would you hire a construction laborer to be your doctor, hire an engineer to prepare your landscape, hire a lawyer to be your airline pilot.  Same goes with airport managment.  There are those that are educated in the field of airport management. They are the ones that should be managing airports no matter what size.

      • Rod Beck says

        We agree – the MOST qualified person to manage an airport of ANY size, be it JFK, MMU, or “Podunk International”, is experienced in  management, ideally, an airport/management business education, several years of experience in economic development, and a few  pilot rating couldn’t hurt, in that order.

        Our point was that a candidate with a combination of the credentials, as stated in our earlier post, would have an edge over the one that doesn’t.

        However, with regard to the smaller GA airport, one needs to idenify with the recreational aviation consumer since he/she is going to be the greater portion of the customer base. This is the exception to the “all business” only mindset that an individual without at least say a private pilot license might have difficulty relating to.

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