Lessons from the NFL

A few days before the Seattle Seahawks played the Washington Redskins in the Wild Card round of the National Football League playoffs, General Aviation News columnist, and nearly Washington D.C. resident Charles Spence emailed me to poke a little fun about the upcoming game.

I took the comments to Facebook for broader discussion and we were joined by a friend of mine in Tacoma, Wash., as well as Cassandra Bosco from the National Business Aviation Association. Cassandra, like Charlie, lives in the greater D.C.-area. A little friendly trash talking ensued. The game brought us together.

Fast forward one week…after our beloved Seahawks fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round of the playoffs, western Washington’s collective mood on Facebook was one of … NNNNNOOOOOO!

Again, the game brought us together.

As I look ahead to today’s Superbowl XLVII, and back at earlier contests, it amazes me how much of society tunes in for this single event. Some watch for the commercials, others for the half-time show, and a few for the actual game.

Once more, the game brings us together.

Following the Superbowl, people all around the world talk about the commercials, the half-time show and the game. This lone event brings millions of people together.

How do we accomplish the same in aviation? It doesn’t matter what team you root for (light sport, hang gliders, business jets, airlines, military, helicopters, etc). We need to bring the consciousness of aviating to a higher level.

It’s a shared picture of a beautiful airplane in flight as an “I’ve flown that…” story is shared with a non-pilot friend. It’s hard-core lobbying at the local, state and federal level to preserve both the economic engine and avocation that is aviation. It’s Young Eagle flights. It’s airshows. It’s AirVenture and Paris and SUN ‘n FUN and Reno and our local pancake breakfast. It’s all these — and more.

We need to continually create, promote and talk about the “games” that can bring us together.

Like aviation, not all is rosy in the NFL. Have you heard of “bountygate”? What about the increased awareness of concussions? The NFL is mounting an all-out PR assault to save the game. They aren’t worried about this season or next, but seasons 10, 20, and 30 years from now. Simply put, if enough parents keep their kids from playing the game, it will have a huge impact on the league.

Aviation is no different.We have our own challenges and perceptions to overcome. “Flying is for rich people.” “Flying is dangerous.” “Flying is noisy and polluting.” “Pilots are reckless.” You get the idea.

Yet it feels like we are group divided. I don’t have much in common with the owner of a Gulfstream G650. But I do love flying and airplanes. There’s the connection. I’d hazard a guess that we hobbyists and business operators need each other more than we let on. In fact, if we could find that “game” to bring us together, we could, together, turn the future of aviation into a bright spot, rather than a grease spot.

When did you last read, in a U.S.-based publication, something along the lines of “changes to the low-altitude airspace management system will spread from test areas to the rest of the country. Communications and surveillance facilities have already been built to ensure flight safety at the beginning of next year, and a trillion-yuan market is about to take off.” This quote is from Ma Xin, deputy director of the National Air Traffic Management Committee Office in China in a story posted Dec. 29, 2012, in China Daily.

Here in the U.S., we fight against, rather than with, leadership to ensure we keep our aviation industry from auguring to the ground. I wonder what the U.S. aerospace market would look like if our country were investing as China is? That would be fun to see. Hmmm. I wonder if that could bring us together. What do you think?


  1. Frank Strahan says

    I agree with the idea of teamwork. But how do we get all of the team members to play?
    It seems like most of them are taking practice balls out in the field and never come in to play with the rest of us.

  2. says

    Hey Ben… I agree… If we could energize the aviators in this country to step up and each do a little, it would go far in showing our elected officials that we care. Then they might take notice. Ed Rosiak – California Pilots Association

  3. Walter Calahan says

    The Chinese are starting from scratch building Aero-Industry, airports and all. They have the advantage of calling upon our, USA, years of development to borrow from there by reducing development costs. The Chinesec experience will evenrually reach a completion phase and when it does we will be able to measure successes/failures. The high speed rail system will also reach this completion/operation phase which will be more revealing. JMHO

  4. says

    I agree with your last paragraph entirely, Ben. Teamwork is the key to success, regardless of what the game is. By working together, bringing our collective talents to the task, GA can be revitalized and valued as the economic engine and educational powerhouse it has been poised to be.

    Thanks for leading the charge. Great piece!

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