While dodging raindrops and chatting amiably on Sun ‘n Fun Radio with the three highly animated hosts of the Uncontrolled Airspace podcast, the question came up: “What interested you most during Sun ‘n Fun this year?”
To be honest, those may not have been the actual words spoken. The fact that a river of air-cooled liquid was running down my back at the time may have distracted me from taking accurate notes. But that is a pretty fair representation of the question. Dave, Jeb, and Jack looked my way expectantly, microphones at the ready. The rain continued.
My answer would have been the same even if I was drowning. To paraphrase my response, this may have been my most satisfying Sun ‘n Fun ever, because I had the opportunity to escort an actual power-broker (Winter Haven’s City Manager) to both the Splash-In on Lake Agnes, and through nearly every square foot of Sun ‘n Fun proper on the following day. That is an opportunity I have never had before. What a break! I got to escort a public official through two major aviation gathering sites, on two successive days, and introduce him to the diversity of general aviation in an up close and personal way. And that’s important considering that this is one of a handful of people who is responsible for the management of the airport in the city I live in.
Consider these shocking revelations that we discovered.
- Many LSAs use engines that differ considerably from the engines used in older or larger light aircraft: A fact that led us to the realization that aircraft maintenance is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
- There are people in the world who own classic aircraft that are worth a considerable amount of money (more than the average American house, in some cases) but will happily sleep in a tent pitched under the wing rather than in a hotel located only a few miles away.
- Pilots do not require multi-million dollar terminals or high-end amenities to entice them to visit old friends or see new sights.
- A curious number of pilots actually attend fly-ins with their spouse and/or children in tow.
- And perhaps most shocking of all – a substantial number of those in attendance at the fly-in come year after year, apparently to do nothing more profound than eat, talk, shop, and be entertained with like minded people.
Well, you and I knew all this to be true. But that’s the point. Your airport and mine are not mismanaged because of a pervasive sense of apathy on the part of management. In all too many cases our airports are mismanaged by people who sincerely believe they know what the aviation marketplace is all about – even though they have never personally experienced it beyond the boundaries of their own airport fence.
As they say, seeing is believing. And I can tell you that at least one public official’s eyes were opened wide during Sun ‘n Fun this year. I’m just happy I could be a part of that process. May you be as fortunate when you invite your public officials out to be part of a Young Eagles day, or a local fly-in, or whatever other aviation activity you can introduce them to first-hand.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.