Tom Haines

Aviation as a diplomat

June 11, 2010 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

I’m sitting in the Sheraton Hotel on the lovely Mediterranean Sea beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, as delegates to the IAOPA World Assembly debate resolutions. This part of the biennial meeting is like watching paint dry, but it’s just a small part of the meeting that brings pilots together from around the world. This assembly, the twenty-fifth one for the group, includes representatives from 18 of 68 AOPA’s around the globe and four continents.

Throughout the week we have heard presentations from the delegates on their successes and challenges. As I listen from the perspective of a U.S. pilot, I am relieved to know that we, at least as yet, don’t face any where near the hurdles to aviating as do many of those from other countries. Ridiculous bureaucratic challenges and extreme fees hassle pilots from some of these countries in a way that those of us from the States can’t imagine. Many of the European pilots, for example, must take English language tests on a regular basis at fees from around $40 to several hundred dollars. In Japan, for example, we have learned that while hangar fees at public airports are only about $220 a month, there is an annual airwothiness fee of about $6,500 for an aircraft the size of a Cessna 172 and fuel costs $10 per gallon.
While there are differences among the group, it is amazing to watch as pilots with such diverse backgrounds and cultures come together seemingly as old friends because of the one thing they have in common–aviation. That common bond seems to trump any differences, causing strangers to become instant friends.
One of the aviation successes in Africa is Botswana–mostly because the president of Botswana is an active, enthusiastic general aviation pilot. Perhaps we should seek out a U.S. presidential candidate who is an active GA pilot.
Aviation is a wonderful diplomatic tool. Let’s deploy it worldwide.

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