Someone asked me recently what I would say if asked for advice about how to be a good advocate for general aviation. The answer is simple — and it doesn’t matter if the advocacy you intend to do is on behalf of general aviation, a local bowling league, or anything else. The advice is the same either way: Be persistent, but be there.
Persistence is essential because change takes time. That is especially true when you’re dealing with the government in any form. Government moves slowly, often at a glacial pace, because government is all about process, not results. Most people don’t realize that, but it’s true.
When you’re dealing with the government the most important aspect of the process is that all the boxes are checked, all the meetings have been held, and all the forms have been filed. The outcome of all those checklists, meetings, and forms is beside to the point to many a bureaucrat. Progress is immaterial to them, because they system of working doesn’t require or incentivize success. They’re only expected to follow an invisible and often incomprehensible flow chart, even if the method of operation leads to counter-productive or contradictory actions.
If there’s going to be progress, it’s going to be up to you, for the most part. You’re going to have to be the one who keeps his (or her) eye on the ball, maintains a steady course toward a specific goal, and jumps through all the hoops they set up for you — plus you have to be ready and willing to jump through a few more if need be.
Making anything happen within a program or at a facility overseen by government is an endurance event. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The odds are good you won’t be able to change that aspect of the process. So be prepared for it. Endure, persist, assert — just don’t give up.
But more than that, before you can even think about being persistent and patient, you have to be there. You have to become one of the few who is willing to stand up and make your case in public, using language that everyone understands. You have to steel yourself for the reality that you will take heat, even when you’re right and the action you’re espousing will be undeniably beneficial. You have to be aware that you will suffer hurt feelings, personal attacks, and inaccurate press coverage that might disparage you and will occasionally even involve your family members.
In short, advocacy is hard. It’s slow, plodding work that takes an enormous amount of energy, a ridiculous amount of time, and will put you at odds with people you will never understand. It’s worth it, though. For all the struggle, for all the anguish and lost sleep, it’s worth it. Because if you are persistent and prepared, you will eventually make progress. And hard won progress is a very gratifying thing — even if nobody ever knows you had a hand in making it happen.
A win, is a win, is a win. If you’re tenacious and set your mind to a goal, you can reach it. That’s true of general aviation advocacy as much as it is anything else. I hope you’ll consider getting in the game. The team working the issues now could really use your help.
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. He maintains multiple blogs and interacts via the Internet at JamieBeckett.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.