Last week the U.S. and the world missed a story that was right there, front and center for all to see. But we missed it. Not a word was spoken about a story that should have been news, but was instead, virtually invisible in the public consciousness.
Granted, the ebola scare has most people distracted from their normal day-to-day thoughts. Who can focus on deciding between going with cable or switching to satellite service when the specter of imminent doom is right there on the front page of your newspaper?
This might be a good time to take a closer look at the photograph that got everyone so excited. You know the one I mean.
It features a team of medical care workers in biohazard suits as they wheel a gurney up to a waiting airplane. Their mission is to extract from the gray twin turbine powered machine a patient who is infected with the scariest disease to hit these parts since smallpox went the way of the wooly mammoth. That photo freaked people out from coast to coast. Most were looking at the folks in biohazard suits. Some were looking at the gurney. Everyone was thinking, ebola. Almost no one was looking at the airplane.
This is general aviation at its finest.
Sure, Congress and the president can whoop-up on some automakers for flying their private jets to Washington to testify before Congress.
But nobody notices when general aviation moves patients or medical teams quickly, from where ever they are to where ever they need to be, without coming in contact with others who would like very much to steer clear of the cooties on board.
Can you imagine if we had to transport these people by train, or ship, or bus? How comfortable do you suppose the average homeowner would be to see H1N1 flu strain carriers pass by their house in a tour bus with big stickers reading, “Do Not Tailgate, Communicable Disease On Board.” Somehow I think that would be worse.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in New York’s Pennsylvania Station, and I’ve never been all that happy about it. For those who haven’t been, let’s just say the standard of cleanliness for that building rates somewhere between Tremendously Disappointing, and Oh Come On You Have to be Kidding Me.
Combine a normal Penn Station experience with a medical team in protective gear and a similarly dressed patient on a gurney and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be trouble. Double the panic problem if one of the medical teams stops to grab a slice of pizza or a coffee and donut from one of the many fine vendors taking up space on the periphery of this large public gathering spot.
Consider how well that same scenario would be received by the passengers assembled for their flight to Buffalo at any airport offering commercial service. Somehow I doubt calm, cool, and collected would be appropriately descriptive terms. Rather, we might use words like panicked, hysterical, or rioting.
The undeniably challenging modern scourge of ebola has given general aviation a platform to stand on that has so far been avoided. As unseemly as it might appear, the reality is we have all just seen general aviation provide an essential service to the public at large, and not a word was spoken about it.
Yes, general aviation can move wealthy auto executives to a meeting if they so choose. It can also carry you and your sweetie away on vacation to a location not served by the airlines. Or it might quickly transport a rancher from the south side of his spread to the north side.
General aviation has the ability to show a gifted teenager that they have potential far beyond what they might have imagined, and it has the ability to show a troubled kid a future that is brighter, more optimistic, and more exciting than anything they thought was available to them.
It can also rapidly and safely move a patient in dire circumstances to the exact place they need to be for treatment with the exact people they need to be in contact with.
General aviation is no rich man’s toy. It’s a tool for life in a modern world that can mean the difference between life and death. Not just for ebola sufferers either.
Drivers, passengers, and even unlucky pedestrians have all been saved from far worse fates by general aviation aircraft and crews who could move them to a trauma center when they needed it most.
Sometimes salvation is found in the most unexpected places, at the most unlikely times, and under the most unimaginable circumstances. General aviation has just experienced such a confluence of time, place, and circumstances. Tell the story. Share the news. Do it today. Do it tomorrow. Continue telling your tale for as long as anyone will listen. General aviation is part of the solution, it is not the problem.
If you doubt that, ask a patient who was whisked to a safe, well provisioned facility where they could receive the care they needed most, exactly when they needed it most. See if they believe general aviation played a role in their survival. Whether suffering from ebola, or as flood victims, or those starving due to famine — aviation has saved more people in our times than most are aware.
Let’s tell that story. Let’s keep up the good work while we’re at it, too.