Respectfully yours

Now and then I’ll receive a piece of mail that contains a dollar bill. These tend to be from companies that want information from me. You probably get similar mailers arriving at your home or office. Most of us do.

What I find intriguing about these dollars in the mail is that I cannot recall the name of a single company I’ve received one from. I remember the dollar, but only in generic terms. Why they chose to send cash through the mail, or what they hope to impress upon me is a mystery. I simply don’t retain that information because it’s not important to me and they make no attempt to make it important to me. Even though they gave me money I have no recollection of them, no brand loyalty, no sense of purpose or belonging.

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They reached for the stars


The pride of my small aviation art and poster collection is a glimpse into one of GA’s most daring – and star-crossed – new products. It’s time to dig out my prize Starship poster and look back on troubled times at Beech, now that Textron has taken ownership.

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Banding together to grow GA’s brand


Montana has more cows than people, and in cattle country, unbranded calves are called “mavericks.” In people terms, we think of a maverick as being a loner, without ties or loyalties. And alone, a person — no matter how passionate — can only accomplish so much.

Partnerships that match folks with common goals result in more fulfilling success. Montana pilots are partnering up to advocate for aviation, and their caps, jackets and shirts carry such brands as AOPA, RAF, MPA, EAA, and SPA. There are few mavericks among them, and they work hard to preserve the right to enjoy Montana’s airspace.

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Grease is the word

Whenever I give talks I usually put in a few slides about grease. In discussions on this topic, questions mainly fall into three areas.

The first is why is it so critical to use only the grease that is approved for a certain application. A lot of people think grease is grease, so they should be able to use whatever is available.

An important point to remember is that grease is not really thick oil. It is base oil that has a thickening agent mixed in, much like my mother would mix corn starch into thicken the gravy.

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The four secret steps to becoming a good old boy

In your town, right now, there is a good old boy network firmly in place. I know this because there is a good old boy network in place in every town. Whether you’re in New York City, Los Angeles, Clarksville, Texas, or Carrington, North Dakota, there is a group of men and women known locally — and not always affectionately — as the good old boys network.

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USA Today goes anti-GA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 18, the national publication USA Today published an article titled Unfit for Flight. It painted general aviation as a dangerous activity and the manufacturers of aircraft as contributing to general aviation accidents. This is not new.

Anti-general aviation material has been printed and broadcast in the past. Two things make this time different. First, aircraft manufacturers, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Textron, parent company to GA giant Cessna, had provided information to the writer, who chose not to use any of the material. Second, increased concern over more congestion at major airports labeled this as a possible early shot in what could become a major battle.

Neither of these two points is new. After a mid-air collision at San Diego  in 1978 between an airliner and a single-engine GA aircraft, major media spewed material about the dangers of “those small airplanes.” (It was finally determined that the airline pilots were busy talking among themselves and after sighting the GA aircraft had supposed they had passed it.) This accident set off a storm of anti-general aviation reports in print and on-air media.

This was just what the FAA was waiting for to establish then-called Terminal Control Areas around every airport in the United States served by a scheduled air carrier, even if it was just one or two flights a day.
Airlines favored the idea because it would mean limited numbers of general aviation aircraft getting near the airports the carriers used.

It was obvious the media was not getting such a wide range of anti-general aviation material without help. The president of American Airlines openly pushed for restricting general aviation operations at airports. (American Airlines has since become much more understanding and tolerant.)

At the time I was vice president of public relations at AOPA. We took on the fight. I had an undercover person on the staff at American Airlines so we knew what the airline was pushing to the media and able to counter it, often before it was published.

The AOPA PR department also took on the FAA’s efforts to establish restricted zones around every airport. For this, we tailored information to the individual publications in each city, pointing out the damage to that area that the FAA’s plans for terminal control areas would bring. There was no mention of the accident. This received the kind of support intended.

Local leaders, reading of the damages to the economy of restricting movements at the town’s airport, contacted their members in Congress. The war was not won, but the battles were. Instead of terminal control areas around every air carrier airport, Class B airspace rules were established at only the few where they now exist.

As a long-time newspaper man, I can tell you a reporter rarely comes up with such a story idea unless there is a personal reason or it is suggested by an outside source. Without any direct finger pointing, one must wonder what prompted that USA Today piece.

GA’s alphabet groups, including AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), were all quick to counter the USA Today piece with accurate information. But response is always behind, with opponents always ahead.

The best defense is a strong offense. But it takes planning. A top executive in an international corporation gave me some great advice as I discussed taking on another large industry in the struggle for general aviation’s position in air traffic movement: “Don’t take them on directly,” he said. “They will squash you like a small worm.”

I learned. Take on the big ones, but do it a smart way.