Several letters have been printed lately about the proposal to privatize our air traffic control system. Some have made reference to general aviation and how it would suffer. “So what,” you say, “those guys in their little airplanes don’t fly to O’Hare anyway” or “I don’t care if those one percenters in their jets do.”
Few people know what general aviation is. There are three types of aviation as far as the FAA is concerned; scheduled airlines, the military and everything else. Scheduled airlines only serve a few hundred airports out of thousands in the United States. The military of course is the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army. General aviation is the company jet and the little guy flying out of Campbell Airport. By the way, that company jet is a business tool that is probably filled with staff that can visit several customers in a day in far-flung cities and towns; a trip that might take a week using the airlines and rental cars.
General aviation is air ambulances, traffic reporters, aerial firefighters this summer in California, volunteer pilots using their time and airplanes to transport patients to medical treatment in far off cities, TV station helicopters reporting on the news, search and rescue, police, pipeline and electrical line patrol, flight instruction (where do you think most airline pilots come from?) business aviation, volunteers flying needed supplies to hurricane stricken areas. And much, much more.
Here is one that affects practically everybody that uses Amazon.com or any sort of mail order. FedEx and United Parcel Service are general aviation. How do you think your package gets sent overnight from across the country. Small airplanes contracted to FedEx and UPS and others fly to hundreds of outlying airports every night to bring merchandise to virtually every small town in America. UPS and FedEx don’t fly to O’Hare. They fly to Rockford and Grand Rapids, to DuPage County Airport and so on.
That is what general aviation is.