Editor's Log

May 2004 Issue

Us vs. Them

Help general aviation by making yourself a foot soldier in the PR war. Youíll just be helping yourself

As a nation, we have become so paranoid about aviation security that a self-described psychic got a flight canceled because it may have contained a bomb. Whatís this got to do with general aviation? Plenty.

Ever since that day (the September one a couple of years ago), general aviation has been a whipping boy of those who would have us be secure in all of our effects. Not the only whipping boy, to be sure, but a substantial one. This despite the lack of any kind of publicly revealed evidence that small airplanes represents a substantial threat to any building, landmark, congregation of people, or presidential motorcade or air convoy.

And now a psychic Ė a psychic Ė can induce the Transportation Security Administration to let loose the bomb-sniffing dogs and ultimately cause cancellation of a commercial airline flight because the search delay put crew members past their duty limits.

If thereís any justice in the world, the bureaucrat who made that call will be exiled to passenger screening at the terminal in Reidsville, Ga. (Look it up.) But of course, that wonít happen. Instead, the incident will serve to further chip away at the publicís ability to look at airplanes as anything other than noisy threats.

For general aviation pilots, this episode should add to the wake-up call thatís been ringing on the bedside table for more than two years. People donít trust airplanes, but airliners are too useful to abandon, so letís let the other guys have it. However, instead of crying in our corn flakes, itís past time we took matters into our own hands and went on the public relations offensive.

Donít befuddle your neighbors with statistics on general aviationís economic impact. It ainít gonna work. Instead, do what you can to illustrate on a visceral level why it is we put up with biennial flight reviews and maintenance bills that would make a Mercedes dealership squeal with glee.

Donít run afoul of any regs on common carriage or private certificate reimbursements, but do what you can to show people what airplanes are good for. That means a Sunday pancake run, a business meeting 300 miles away or a weekend getaway.

This battle is grass-roots all the way. Let the alphabet groups worry about lobbying the elected guys, but without a greater public appreciation for small airplanes a lot more airports will suffer the fate of Meigs.

Despite the relatively clean-cut ranks of pilots, we are in many ways faced with staging a protest movement. A protest against encroaching regulation, skyrocketing costs and outright prohibitions on flying where we cannot possibly do any harm. This wonít happen today. And it wonít happen next year.

This is necessarily a continuing effort to help non-pilots understand that weíre just like them. They donít need teams of armed guards protecting them from us. They donít need metal detectors or triple-layer concertina wire.

In fact, they donít even need a psychic. But you already knew that.

-Ken Ibold