I received an email over the weekend that stunned me. I don’t use that term lightly, either. I was truly shocked. The opening sentence read, “The fact is GA is just about done for.”
That got my attention. Not only is that a sentiment I disagree with entirely, it is a position that I cannot find any rationale for. So I wrote the emailer to share some encouraging tid bits. I gave him examples of successes in the GA market. I wrote about the reality of our market as seen from a more hopeful and positive perspective.
With each upbeat email I sent, I received an increasingly negative one in return. And as our exchange of emails went on, it occurred to me that my counterpart was arguing in favor of euthanizing general aviation. He was advocating killing it off, letting it lie sick and dormant until it expired from lack of interest or passion.
I was astonished. Not because someone out there is opposed to general aviation. I meet those people all the time. I get emails from them, and I meet them in person. Unfailingly I answer those people by pointing out that while they have the right to dislike aviation, they should at least engage in the conversation with the knowledge that they use, and have been using, general aviation’s benefits for years. That is undeniably true whether they accept that reality or not.
This was different however, because this email came from a man who is rated in single and multi-engine aircraft. This rant against GA originated at the fingertips of an individual who identifies himself as an EAA chapter president, an AOPA member, and an FAA Safety Counselor. This screed against GA came from one of us – a general aviation pilot. And that worries me, because a defeatest attitude can be contagious. Many a worthy cause has gone down to dust for no reason other than the lack of motivation, creativity, or interest from those who had the opportunity to elevate their dream to reality.
I choose to view aviation differently. I choose to look favorably on the possibilities for growth and advancement in GA, rather than throw up my hands when a challenge becomes evident. My email writer is correct, of course. Pilot numbers are down. The pilot population is aging. New aircraft are horrendously expensive, as are hangars, fuel, insurance, and repairs. I can certainly see the points my emailing stone-thrower was making. But I dispute them as being an indication of an unavoidable natural order. I do not accept those negatives as insurmountable, and I would implore you to do the same.
Allow me to make a few points of my own. I am unequivocally in favor of GA. Consider, aviation is infinitely safer than it was in the 1930s, an era we tend to think of as the Golden Age. Teaching or learning the lessons necessary to excel in ground school and establish a strong basis for an aviation centric population is easier, less expensive, and far more effective than at any time in history. Our school systems, nationwide, have adopted the STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) which lines up exactly with the skills and talents used in all aspects of aviation.
Think about that for a moment. For the first time ever we have a population of millions who are predisposed to the benefits of aviation – all they need is a willing and knowledgable team of folks who are willing to share the story with them. Add to that opportunity the fact that we have simulator technology available to us, including full motion sims, that are smaller, cheaper, less complex to operate, more reliable, and infinitely more realistic than at any time in history.
Putting a kid who loves video games into a flight simulator, where they can fly the thing through unusual attitudes that put them in a mountainside, and then offering to teach them to do it better – well I just don’t know a teenager who would turn that opportunity down. That kid at the stick suddenly becomes a new convert, an aviation enthusiast with a penchant to know more. They may become a pilot, and they may not. But the experience of taking the controls and flying an airplane without assistance will make an impression on them. A positive impression that will last.
General aviation is not sick, it’s not dying, and it will thrive as the 21st Century model of a 19th Century dream if we would just stop lamenting what it is not, and start embracing what it is.
Join me, won’t you? Speak up, speak out, and share your love of aviation. Let’s commit to building a community of doers, rather than a rabble of lamenters. We can do this, if we would only stop singing the praises of GA’s decline.
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 maintains multiple blogs and interacts via the Internet at JamieBeckett.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.