Earning a seat at the table

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.

In December 2008, my home city of Winter Haven, Florida, cut the ribbon on a new terminal building at Gilbert Field. With millions of dollars invested and a golden opportunity to celebrate the occasion, city hall pulled out all the stops. They even included airline pilots holding the ends of a bright red ribbon. At the center of that ribbon was a wooden prop turned to the vertical. The mayor and the full contingent of city commissioners were on hand to cut the ribbon, open the terminal, and pose for photos.

What many of the airport users found objectionable that fine morning was the unavoidable lack of integrity to the big moment. You see, the airline pilots weren’t really airline pilots. They were members of the city’s IT staff – the computer geeks who keep the digital wheels of government turning. They weren’t pilots at all. In fact nobody involved in the ceremony had any direct connection to the art and science of moving an aircraft from the ramp into the airspace above.

It would be entirely reasonable to characterize the relationship between city hall and the aviation community as tense. You might even say it was hostile. [Read more...]

One thing leads to another, and another…

One thing leads to another

With Oshkosh in full swing, the eyes of the aviation minded are on Wisconsin. But here in central Florida there is one city commissioner who has just become a major fan of aviation, thanks to a husband and wife who restored a Stearman and shared the excitement with him. I love it when the fever spreads.

It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote about Elizabeth Amundsen, a CFI and IA who was busily restoring a Stearman to its former glory along with her husband, Jonathan. That story may have been the impetus for the local newspaper here in Winter Haven to run a story about the same couple as they prepared to get the last few details completed in preparation for their departure for AirVenture 2010.

That newspaper story gave our new interim airport manager an idea. It stood to reason, she thought, that if one couple was headed off to Oshkosh for the big wing-ding, maybe others from our field were making the trek, too. What if the city’s staff and commissioners showed up at the airport to provide an official send-off? That would be great!

[Read more...]