My local coffee shop has been abuzz with conversations about the same top news story that’s dominated the chatter at yours, I’m sure: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It seems every news channel on television has dedicated untold hours of coverage to the story, while newspapers have filled innumerable column inches with every rumor that comes down the pike.
Understandably, the folks who gather at my table each morning explore the possibilities, too. And eventually the question comes to me. “Hey Jamie, do you think that’s what happened?”
It doesn’t really matter what “that” might be, my answer is always the same. I simply say, “I don’t know.” Because I really don’t know. Neither does anybody else, frankly. But that doesn’t seem to stop them from airing hour after hour of coverage on an issue that could be covered in less than three minutes.
An airplane crash is a tragic thing. Whether it takes one life or hundreds, it’s a sad reality that we as a people have to find a way to come to grips with. And we will, eventually.
The hijacking of an airplane is scary, too. As is the idea that a pilot might abscond with an airplane, take it to an unexpected location, and turn it over to others who intend to do bad things with it.
All three of those scenarios are worrisome. All three of those scenarios are plausible. All three of those scenarios are entirely beyond our control, too.
No matter how much time we devote to the story, regardless of how distracted we become by every new detail or bit of hearsay that comes along, we will not affect the outcome of the story one little bit.
Let’s shift gears for a moment. Let’s consider some aviation news that would benefit from our involvement.
The controversial closure talk at Santa Monica Municipal Airport rages on. Bill Dunn, vice president of airport advocacy at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, has traveled to this beautiful jewel of a southern California town often enough that he should probably just get an apartment there and work the rest of the country remotely. He’s engaged.
Many California-based pilots are motivated to assure continued operations at Santa Monica. Even east coasters like me are interested. I toured the field and spent time with the airport manager in October and can tell you it’s a well populated facility that absolutely benefits the community that surrounds it.
However, you’ll not see a word about this airport battle on your television tonight. Nor will you read about it in your newspaper.
Ironically, it is these issues we have a vested interest in that we hear the least about. The idea of shutting down a historic airport that serves a vital function isn’t interesting to news producers or newspaper editors. They deem it unnewsworthy. Certainly not as newsworthy as the mysterious disappearance of an airplane that we know virtually nothing about.
In a nutshell, we allow the news to inundate us with hours of nothing, but make no demand of them to provide us with coverage of something that actually impacts our lives, our jobs, or the industry we work in.
Is it just me or does that seem a little nuts to you?
This week I will be appearing before my city commission, again. My hope is to get them to adopt a five point plan our airport advisory committee has identified as being necessary to provide the airport with a safe and bright future.
As the chairman of the airport advisory committee, it’s my responsibility to carry this request to City Hall, advocate for it, answer questions, motivate the commissioners, and do what I can to get five non-aviation minded individuals to realize that owning an airport does not equate to owning a successful airport. Action has to be taken, a good management team must be in place, and a plan for success has to be fleshed out.
Although the airport advisory committee has been working toward this goal for a year, there has not been a word of it in the news. Even though this plan has come before the commission before to make them aware of the request that they take action, the newspaper has not included coverage. Hmmm.
With all this in mind, it begs the question: Are we being distracted from the real issues that affect us, or are we willingly engaged in pointless supposition rather than in productive efforts to promote and enhance aviation in our own communities?
If this most recent aviation mystery has taught us anything it is this: The most watched and read news outlets in the world are woefully ignorant of a means of transportation that has been with us for a century. They don’t understand the industry, or the technology, or the people who operate the machinery involved in any aspect of flight.
We could change that if we chose to. We could have a positive impact on our communities if we were more active and engaged. Or we can continue to be distracted by things that we will never be able to affect one way or the other.
The choice is ours. I sincerely hope you will take that reality seriously and engage yourself accordingly.