As the CEO of Tucknott Electric Company, I have been working in electrical construction for about 50 years. But in the last 10 to 12 years, I have also been working as a certified forensic litigation expert. This work takes me all over the state and region. Sometimes, it makes sense to fly with the commercial airlines. But sometimes, it makes more sense for me to fly my own plane.
I have been a pilot for more than 40 years. I have used my plane to get to industry meetings and seminars. Insurance companies will call me to visit and evaluate a site, and it is critical to be able to get to the scene as quickly as possible.
Just last week, I got a call to be in Bakersfield to visit the site of a fire as soon as possible. It was too short of notice to get a commercial flight. But by flying my own aircraft I was able to get to the site in an hour and a half.
People throughout our state rely on general aviation every day in many different ways — almost too many to describe. Companies use it to stay competitive and reach far-off markets, farmers use these aircraft to maintain crops, companies use planes to maintain power lines and repair infrastructure. General aviation in California represents a $30 billion industry, and supports more than 139,000 jobs.
In addition to my small business, general aviation enables me to participate in charitable activities that support patients in need. I am a volunteer pilot and founder of the Northern California chapter for Angel Flight West, which provides flights free of cost to patients battling life-threatening illnesses.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I helped to get donated blood to those who needed it. But my most memorable volunteer flight was helping to support a corneal transplant for a patient who ultimately got his vision back.
Furthermore, law enforcement, emergency medical responders and firefighters rely heavily on general aviation. I also use my plane to volunteer for the sheriff’s department, the Coast Guard, and to support firefighting efforts as needed.
But some politicians don’t appreciate the important role of general aviation and small airports in our communities. Some have even suggested removing Congressional oversight of the nation’s air traffic control system and putting it under the control of a board dominated by a board of private interests. Decisions ranging from taxes and fees to routes to terminal gate assignments would be decided largely by the big airlines.
We need to continue to have Congressional oversight of the air traffic control system to ensure that it continues to work in the best interest of all Americans.
Bob Tucknott is a Bay Area business owner and general aviation pilot.