By Mitch Latting and Jolie Lucas
Recently a critic of ours said that we “fly around the country acting like they are the saviors of general aviation.”
As we thought about this criticism, we had to admit there is some truth to the statement. We so strongly believe in promoting general aviation, we developed a presentation called PGA2: Promote General Aviation, Protect GA Airports. We have presented PGA2 at shows and conferences, including AirVenture, Women in Aviation, and the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association, as well as to many pilot groups throughout California.
We firmly believe that unless we all do something, the face of general aviation in the United States could change for the worse. So, it looks like our critic is right. This begs the question: Why aren’t there more folks out there doing the same?
A few weeks ago, we accepted a position on the board of the California Pilots Association (CalPilots). Founded in 1949, CalPilots is a statewide non-profit volunteer organization committed to the support of our state’s general aviation airports and flight privileges. Protecting airports and promoting GA is right in line with the work we have been doing with the two grassroots groups we founded: The Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport, so accepting the vice presidency of Region 3 was a no-brainer.
What can the average lover of aviation do to help inspire the love of flight and protect their home drome? By engaging! Get involved at your airport. Find out about aviation events in your area. Attend as many as you can or, better yet, volunteer to help. No events in your neighborhood? Start one.
Stay involved. Know your airport board and the political figures who oversee your airport. Keep abreast of issues that could affect your airport and attend meetings. Educate yourself as to what general aviation truly is. Write an editorial for your local newspaper on how general aviation positively affects your community. Get to know your local media folks and invite them to the airport for a tour. Take them for an airplane ride. They like to have fun too. Tell them general aviation fights forest fires and provides emergency ambulance and rescue services. Let them know about all-volunteer Angel Flight, which provides medical transportation to those in need. Inform them the package they recently received might have been delivered by a general aviation FedEx or UPS feeder airplane.
Aviation lovers ask us why should they become a member of CalPilots when they already belong to the national groups, such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA),
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), or other aviation groups. The short answer is that state aviation issues are increasing and national aviation organizations can no longer address them all or protect all of our airports.
Further, as of October 2011, AOPA announced a reorganization that changes the AOPA State Rep program. California, which has the largest pilot population of any state, no longer has a dedicated AOPA rep. It is also important to understand that the AOPA state reps work part time, which means they simply cannot handle all the issues. We have to pick up the slack.
We have to do more to protect general aviation airports. Toward this end, CalPilots created the “Three Tiered Aviation Defense Strategy,” which recommends that aviation enthusiasts belong to local, statewide, and national aviation organizations. Further, all three tiers must work together, which is beginning to happen. It is vital that all — aviators and enthusiasts — get involved. Each of us can do something to help, no matter how small.
We invite you to “Meet Us in Mojave” at the Mojave Air and Spaceport (MHV) for the annual CalPilots meeting, Oct. 19-21. This event is open to all airplane and airport lovers. You do not need to be a CalPilots member to attend. We have some terrific activities planned, including a Friday night meet and greet, exclusive tours, dinner on Saturday with aviation legend Dick Rutan, sailplane rides and more! Registration is limited, so we encourage folks to go to CalPilots.org today.
Also, please come visit us at our CalPilots booth at AOPA’s Aviation Summit, Oct. 11-13 in Palm Springs, California.
So, are we the saviors of GA? No — we all are. And we must band together against apathy. Promoting general aviation protects GA airports. You can do something today. Help us, help you, join us!