Traditionally, aviation enthusiasts are an ignored minority population. That’s certainly true when election time rolls around. Politicians rarely show up at the airport trolling for votes, which is ironic since aviation enthusiasts tend to be well educated, socially aware people who have an interest in the long-term stability of the system we live, work, and play under.
This tendency to overlook the electorate at the airport isn’t just rude, it also creates a burden for the aviation community. We are constantly on the defensive, trying to explain our positions and concerns to elected officials who have little first-hand knowledge of our thought processes, and a disturbingly low level of curiosity about us beyond election day.
This year, my little community has seen a change in that traditional sense of malaise the politician’s show the aviation minded electorate – at least to some degree. Interestingly, the change was incited on the aviation side of the equation, not the politician’s side.
Last year these same pilots and airport users found themselves effective when they led the charge to unseat two incumbent city commissioners and replace them with new faces that were aviation friendly. As one of those fresh new faces, I know how vital a group of several hundred potential voters can be. Over the past year I have stayed in close touch with my fellow aviators – and they have stayed in close touch with me. A relationship that has proven effective for both sides in this deal.
With an August primary election looming, I was very pleased to receive an e-mail from a collection of airport folks who asked if I could stop in for lunch one afternoon to share any insights I might have into candidates and issues that are included on the ballot. I was intrigued and encouraged by this development. For the first time in my memory, the airport community has recognized that they are indeed a voting block that shares similar interests and wields a certain amount of power at the voting booth. Like any other voting block, this group is made up of individuals who hold unique views on a number of issues. But their ability and willingness, to band together to back candidates for public office makes them a more connected group than they were in previous years. As long as they remain openly active in politics, their potential to sway local elections will grow.
Even more encouraging than the invitation was the realization that I am not the only politically minded guy in the neighborhood to take notice of this fact. At least one local candidate recognized the potential of a group of voters gathered together to discuss their choices for the primary election. He beat me to the punch in fact. When I arrived at the airport restaurant, fifteen minutes early, he was already there, sitting at a long table that was surrounded with interested voters, introducing himself and making his pitch. By the time our lunch had ended, he had made real inroads with these previously unknown voters. So much so that when one of the pilots invited him to take a tour of the local lakes in his amphibian, the candidate took him up on it.
Ah ha! Now that’s a change that could carry some weight well into the future. I’m anticipating an interesting election year. Especially on the local front – which just happens to be the level of government that we can most easily interact with, and affect with the greatest efficiency.
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.
Charles R. Wirt says
I wish this could be accomplished in more situations. Often the crowd at the local airport are geographicly spread around to the point they cannot effect the election to any one office. Such is the case here in Miami FL/Opa Locka Airport (OPF). Over the years the operations on the airport have been decimated partially due to lack of unity among the people involved.
Kent Misegades says
Good comments Jamie, too bad many aviators still refuse to get involved in politics. Take the example of Norridgewock airport in central Maine, in the news this week as their last supplier of ethanol-free Mogas is about to dry up. We (www.FLYUNLEADED.com) have offered our help to find other suppliers, and strongly encouraged the airport to get local and state politicians involved. Their own Senator Collins appears to be aware that the marine industry in Maine (very important there) needs a dependable supply of ethanol-free fuel, so she could have been a good ally of this major G.A. airport. However the airport’s leaders (at least in their communication with us) refused to engage politicians. State Legislatures have the power to pass laws forbidding the blending of ethanol in certain fuels, for instance Premium, thus preserving a supply for G.A., boaters, ATV & snowmobile owners, etc. Perhaps only a call or two from Norridgewock leaders could have prevented the pickle they now find themselves in. My EAA 1114 (Apex, NC) chapter has kept local politicians engaged, inviting the Mayor of our Town to fly with us anytime he wants. Through this regular contact, we learned that his father was a Corsair pilot in WWII, providing a “connection” with local aviators. Many local families have also enjoyed our frequent Young Eagle rallies, perhaps the best public outreach program for G.A. ever invented. Stick your head in the sand though because you find politics distasteful, and you might as well give up flying altogether – everything in our lives is influenced by politics whether we like this or not.