WASHINGTON, D.C. — A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but will flying by any name be as accepted and successful?
At a recent House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on the progress of the NextGen air traffic management system, members of the subcommittee, as well as people testifying, continually referred to “business flying” and “general aviation.”
Are they different? Do names affect understanding, acceptance and regulations? Do different names of uses for aircraft tend to dilute public and government understanding? Over the years, many have thought so.
When aviation began, it was all “flying.” After companies were formed to have aircraft carry passengers for hire, non-commercial flights were called “private aviation.”
At the start of World War II, there were some government attempts to ground all flying except that of the military and the airlines. The fledgling Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association fought hard to — as the association’s push stressed — “keep ’em ALL flying.”
AOPA was strong in this effort, as well as in the effort to form the Civil Air Patrol. Civilian pilots flew many types of missions, such as patrolling the seacoasts on the lookout for submarines, flying over forests to spot fires, and emergency medical services.
At the same time, manufacturers renamed it from “private” flying to “utility” aviation. This was to connote the wide variety of uses for airplanes. The name “utility” hung around after World War II. It wasn’t until 1969 that the manufacturers group changed its name from Utility Airplane Council to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
Although “general aviation” became the most popular title, personal, private, business, and other particular uses of airplanes were tagged on to try to explain what aviation is. Even trying to explain general aviation to the non-informed is done by saying what it is NOT instead of what it is (i.e., all aviation except the airlines and military).
By separating business flying from other types, as what was done at the recent House hearing, are we emphasizing special interests and keeping all aviation from working together? Will we have business flying, agricultural flying, emergency flying, forest fire fighting flying, vacation flying, and other activities that make up this broad use of airplanes?
Automobiles are used for many activities, but they are not segregated into classes other than busses and cars. We have airplanes and aviation busses. The use of aircraft for a variety of purposes has grown to a point where it might be practical to find a name for what it is and let others — like the airlines and military — explain themselves.
Is there a better name than general aviation to describe how we use our airplanes without separating the reasons for flight? I’d like to hear your suggestions and comments. Send them to Comments@GeneralAviationNews.com.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.