Archive for June, 2009

Making the connection

Friday, June 26th, 2009

If you’ve been following our General Aviation Serves America campaign, you’ve heard me talk about GA’s remarkable power to connect people despite distances, and sometimes even across time. Well just this week, I experienced those connections first hand, thanks to a serendipitous fuel stop.

 

Returning to AOPA’s Frederick, Md., headquarters after a series of meetings in Arizona, I decided to make a stop for food and fuel in Ponca City, Okla. The service at Greenwood’s Oklahoma Jet was friendly and efficient. And when the alert staff recognized the 4GA N-number of AOPA’s jet, they asked if Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson—an active AOPA member—could stop by and say hello.

 

From left, Mayor Homer Nicholson, reporter Louise Abercrombie, AOPA President Craig Fuller, and Chuck Greenwood of Greenwood's Oklahoma Jet.
From left, Mayor Homer Nicholson, reporter Louise Abercrombie, myself, and Chuck Greenwood of Greenwood’s Oklahoma Jet

Naturally I was delighted to meet both Mayor Nicholson and reporter Louise Abercrombie of the Ponca City News, who wanted to know why I had chosen Ponca City as a stop.

 

The answer was twofold. First, it offered a GA airport with fuel and great food right along my route. Second, it was my mother’s hometown, and the place my aunt and uncle spent most of their lives.

 

But the connection, it turned out, went further. I soon learned that Mayor Nicholson knew my family and was familiar with my uncle’s industrial welding business. Abercrombie had been working at the local newspaper when I visited Ponca City with my parents as a young boy in the 1960s. 

 

What began as a convenient fuel stop in a familiar locale from my distant past turned into a wonderful opportunity to connect not only with that past, but also with the wonderful people who make up that community today. You can’t do that on the airlines!

 

 

Whirlwind weeks

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of meetings on Capitol Hill and travels around the country. No matter where I go, I am talking about the General Aviation Serves America campaign—the work we’re doing, the progress we’re making, and the need to keep moving forward.

Just since the beginning of this month, I have been involved in meetings with NATA and EAA that have led to valuable promises of cooperation for our mutual benefit. You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again: We can accomplish far more together than we could alone.

In many ways that’s the premise behind AOPA—pilots working together for mutual benefit—so it only makes sense, when the future of general aviation is in peril, that we join together with other pilot and aviation organizations to speak with one voice on the issues that matter the most.

Nothing invigorates me or helps me focus more than getting out and talking to people. I guess that’s the dividend of a life spent in public policy. This past weekend I even got to give a commencement address to graduates of UCLA’s political science department. Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of those new graduates—their drive and passion to make the world a better place—was truly energizing!

An informal talk with pilots in Santa Fe, N.M.
An informal talk with pilots in Santa Fe, N.M.

And I’ve crisscrossed the country talking to pilots—from New Mexico to New Hampshire and everywhere in between. Each group I talk to is a reminder of just how savvy and passionate pilots are. Everywhere I go, the people I meet have a clear understanding of the issues affecting us and know what’s at stake. Everywhere I go, I get the same question: How can I help?

For one, keep flying. Numbers talk, and there’s no better way to show the policy makers that GA is important than to show them just how many people fly by GA every day. And, when you fly, you support the general aviation businesses that make such a significant contribution to our nation’s economy. Again, it’s a case of numbers.

For another, tell people about general aviation. Be proud that general aviation benefits your life and your business. Encourage a colleague or friend to take a flight with you, and give them a taste of what general aviation can bring to their own lives.

And of course, visit the www.GAServesAmerica.com Web site. Check on our progress, find out more about how you can get involved, and make a donation if you are able.

I will continue my travels around the country and hope to have the opportunity to speak with as many AOPA members as possible. And, just in case I don’t make it to your hometown in the next few weeks, I will be at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh next month. Hope to see you there.