WASHINGTON, D.C. — USA TODAY, one of the Gannett publications, recently carried another article about general aviation safety, which brought quick rebuttals from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
USA TODAY carried a three-part series this past June titled “Unfit for Flight.” The latest single article, published Oct. 27, was: “Post-Crash Fires in Small Planes Cost 600 lives.” The article did not include in the heading that this number was over the past 25 years and safety has been continually improving.
Several attempts were made to contact Gannett offices to interview someone about the articles. These have been rebuffed.
Two days of telephone calls to various Gannett offices were unsuccessful. Most attempted calls were to Jeremy Gaines, listed on the Gannett website as vice president of corporate affairs. Emails were not responded to. Calls were answered by an office assistant with “he is not available but leave your number and what you want to know and he will call.” No return calls or returned emails were received.
A contact in that same office, identified to the caller as “Amber,” brought the recorded response: “Not available.” The person answering calls said only these two people in the communications office could talk with individuals and they were unavailable over the two days. Her instructions were to send an email with the questions to be ask. This was done. No responses were received from the Gannett office of corporate communications. Asked for her name, she replied she was not allowed to give out her identity.
After two days of attempted calls, eventually a person was reached at an executive office telephone. When told the purpose of the calls, the response was: “All information is on our website.” Told there were other questions to be asked, the caller responded that was “silly” and hung up.
The most recent article was by Thomas Frank. GAMA arranged a telephone interview for him with Greg Bowles, the association’s director of European Regulatory Affairs & Engineering, who devoted nearly three hours talking with Frank to provide accurate data. GAMA reports “Mr. Frank chose not to include the bulk of Mr. Bowles remarks” in his article. Frank did not respond to an email sent in an effort to allow him to discuss his researching for his report.
Both GAMA and AOPA immediately set out to set the record more complete. Unfortunately, a response is not as well received by the media as the original article.
Gannett is a huge corporation with operations throughout the United States and in Europe. In the U.S. alone, it has television stations in the top 25 markets. It has service agreements, or similar agreements, with 46 television stations. USA TODAY ranks number one in total circulation. The corporation owns and operates 82 daily publications and 443 non-daily locals in 30 states and Guam.
Gannett uses general aviation aircraft both for business and personal travel. The FAA registry lists these aircraft for Gannett: A Dassault Falcon 2000, Piper PA-31, Aerospatiale Dauphin, Cessna 560, AVIAY INC A-1 helicopter, and Gannett Peak Aviation Windrider. Gannett Flight, Gannett’s aviation department, is based at Washington’s Dulles International Airport.
Gannett’s top brass has received occasional personal use of corporate aircraft. The amount of personal travel is not spelled out in the reports. The New York Times reported CEO Grocia Martore received $117,283 one year, listed under “all other compensation.” This amount was listed as a footnote. Less than half of it was detailed. The report showed $31,000 life-insurance premium. Most of the remainder was not explained.
Data about the Gannett Corporation is from its various websites and cannot be verified because of the inability to talk to anyone.
Although two articles do not represent the beginning of an anti-general aviation push, some previous attempts by others to restrict personal air travel have started small, only to grow.
Thirty-five years ago the collision between an airliner and a Cessna at San Diego resulted in an effort by at least one airline to get more airline control over airspace. At that time, there were strong efforts to force general aviation to be restricted at every airport served by any airline, regardless of the number of daily flights. This push was openly led by a major air carrier.
Because of the efforts of GA advocacy groups, primarily AOPA, this attempt to stop general aviation at many locations failed. Instead, the FAA established the classes of airspace.
Until 1914, all flying was general aviation. Times change. Positions change. Executives change. Conditions change. But in some areas, anti-general aviation efforts have not changed.