Tom Haines

The Meaning of Aviation

January 20, 2011 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

My Waypoints column in the February 2011 issue of AOPA Pilot is already getting lots of e-mail comments and it’s only been out for a few hours.

Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at writing to fit the available space in the magazine, but this subject–how mean and cranky everyone has gotten in aviation–was tough and I actually wrote two versions. One for the magazine and one that is longer. The longer version,  which explores the subject more thoroughly, follows. I hope you will share your comments and insights.

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Just a heads up on the meaning of the headline: This is not a feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy column about the philosophical meaning of aviation. Nope, this is about how mean aviation has become. Let me explain.

I’ve been in the media business in one way or another for 27 years, 25 years covering general aviation. As a great consumer of information, I’ve noticed over the years the trend in newspaper letters to the editor and more recently online comments to newspaper articles toward the negative. Where at one point, people could respond to an article with an articulate, well-thought-out argument, today people seem to resort to name calling and rude, thoughtless comments and taunting right out of the box.

Here’s one well-documented example: The St. Petersburg Times noted the hit-and-run death of a 48-year-old man on a bicycle. He was killed pedaling home after his shift washing dishes at a restaurant where he had been employed for 10 years. Shortly after the story posted online, a person wrote a comment saying: “A man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead.” The newspaper quickly took the comment down and in response, sent a reporter to check out the dead man’s past. Turns out he was a simple, quiet man who was revered by his co-workers, loyal to the core to his employer, and not a bother to anyone.

Unlike the general public, general aviation pilots used to be more civil The fraternity of pilots enjoyed robust discussions in person, in print, and online, but, for the most part, respect prevailed. Over the years, I have observed that pilots, in general, are good folks—more patriotic and more respectful than the average citizenry. When my daughters were young, we spent a lot of time around airports and I felt comfortable telling them that if they ever got lost near or on an airport to look not just for a policeman, but anyone with a headset or chart bag or hanging around a pilot lounge. Pilots, I said, could be trusted to get you help.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I would still offer that same advice. Somewhere along the way, pilots have become as mean-spirited and spiteful as the rest of the population. I find that disheartening.

Over the decades, I’ve developed a thick skin as people often disagree with things we write, but the recent trend toward personal attacks and the destructive nature of comments is wearing, for sure. A few examples:

One member took the time to write an e-mail decrying the hairstyles of several AOPA staff members pictured in the magazine—his only reason for the e-mail. One woman’s hair he described as “a cross between an Alabama trailer mom on welfare, a Puli [I’m not sure what that is], and [a] wig….” According to this member, a senior executive here has a “1975 SuperCuts hackjob, likely inspired by Sal in the film Dog Day Afternoon.”

Thanks much for the constructive comments….

Personal attacks are not limited to hairstyles. Another member wrote in to complain that several people pictured in various articles in a particular issue were overweight. I guess we should only feature thin, handsome, well-coiffed pilots going forward. And white, well-groomed ones too.

An ad in this magazine for one of AOPA’s products included a photo of a dark-skinned man who was not clean shaven, causing one member to call AOPA President Craig Fuller’s office to complain. He felt we were presenting a poor image of general aviation with such an image. Apparently, in this member’s mind, general aviation consists only of clean-shaven white men. Some members have been equally riled by photos of a well-known pilot/celebrity who has an earring. With so many issues facing general aviation, do we really have the time to deal with such trivial matters?

Another “Instrument-rated long-term member” (no name given) was selected to participate in an online survey after AOPA Summit. Rather than complete it, or simply stop, he took the time to write us a letter (with a footnote) where he said he started the survey. “I answered two screens full of pages, but then said ‘to hell with your survey,’ because: [this in 48 point bold, underlined capital letters] Your survey is just too damned long!”

He continued: “Hope this feedback helps. You’ll get crap from your survey, and you’ve shown your discourtesy and thoughtlessness.”

Really? By asking for your input?

In response to us replacing “Test Pilot” with a staff-developed quiz, a member who describes himself as a middle school special education teacher wrote in to tell us to “take that staff-developed quiz, print it out, and shove it squarely, yet ever so firmly, up your rear end.” To his credit, the member later wrote back to apologize and acknowledge he had crossed a line. Still, I’m not sure I want this guy educating my kids.

As with online forums in many locations, the AOPA forums attract plenty of people with strong opinions. They make for entertaining reading, but it’s a shame when people spout off without even bothering to gather any facts. One member on the AOPA forums started a new thread called this: “AOPA beats the hell out of sweepstakes airplanes.” The thread generated 41 responses and was viewed by 1,348 people as of early January. The poster eventually deleted his initial baseless comments and replaced them with simply “never mind” after other posters reminded him about all the productive ways we use the sweepstakes airplanes over the course of the year, educating nonpilots and pilots alike about general aviation airplanes, including with our Remos, providing a wounded warrior with sport pilot training. Occasionally sanity reigns, even on the forums.

The annual awarding of our sweepstakes airplane brings out the conspiracy theorists. The forums, letters, and e-mails we get suggest some people believe that AOPA doesn’t really deliver the airplanes. We apparently squirrel them away somewhere for some other purpose. Although, I’m not sure what that purpose would be given that because of their distinctive paint jobs it would be difficult to fly them anywhere without being noticed. (I often think these are the same people who believe that the Apollo moon landings were shot in a Hollywood studio.) But that’s only the beginning. Others believe that we somehow hand select the winners for some purpose, as if we care who wins the airplanes. Some argue that it seems that only aircraft owners win the airplanes. Half of all AOPA members own an airplane outright or in partnership. Statistically, then, about eight of the winners of our 17 sweepstakes airplanes should have been owners. In fact, only five have been owners.

Sore losers in all seriousness often suggest that we somehow put restrictions on the sweepstakes to only allow people meeting certain criteria to win, such as non-owners, those of only certain financial means, those without any sort of letters attached to their name (such as MD, PhD, Esq., etc.). Not so coincidently, the people remaining in the pool often look a lot like the letter writer. Never mind that strict sweepstakes rules that vary from state to state and that are carefully monitored by attorneys general nationwide prohibit any such restrictions.

As I ponder what brings out the general crankiness of pilots, several things come to mind. The dismal state of the economy, especially as it pertains to general aviation, may contribute to the foul mood that drives people to fire off thoughtless and destructive messages. Perhaps it’s the political landscape that causes people to fear the future and frustration to well up. Maybe it’s the impersonal way we communicate today. It’s easy and quick to fire off an e-mail or post a forum comment without taking the time to reflect on the fact that a real person is going to read what is written. Those e-mails don’t go to some blind e-mail box. There’s a human being on the other end.

Toni Mensching, who heads up the AOPA team of specialists that answer the technical questions in members’ e-mails and calls summed up the mood and our frequent response recently in an internal e-mail a few months ago: “General member frustration and intolerance is beginning to seep into everyday contacts. The cause seems less to do with AOPA specifically and more to do with upcoming elections, economic turmoil, and an overall stress on aviation from all directions. There is increasing pressure from members contacting us venting about problems very distantly related to AOPA.  This is an unavoidable result of high AOPA accessibility. Easily getting a live, caring person on the line at AOPA gives members the ability to immediately share their frustrations with us, when they would otherwise hit a few barriers at other companies. Compassion is the only product we have for these members.”

With the start of a new year, how about we all take a deep breath and recognize that no matter how difficult today’s general aviation situation, we are still so much better off and freer to fly than pilots in just about any other country. Careless and destructive comments only tend to divide our ranks. Instead, we should be providing constructive comments that help us all get behind the big issues that threaten to derail general aviation as we know it. User fees have gone quiet, but not away. Avgas faces an uncertain future. Airport funding at the federal and state level will be thoroughly challenged in coming years. Our aging air traffic infrastructure is stuck in the 1940s. The pilot population is in decline. These are all issues that require focused, creative solutions. Together we can solve these problems. Or we can bicker among ourselves about hairstyles and the length of surveys. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather work together to assure a positive future for general aviation.

72 Responses to “The Meaning of Aviation”

  1. Mike Burton Says:

    Wow, Tom, I feel your pain. It is difficult to have an online discussion with even FB friends without folks reverting to personal attacks. I worked on an issue campaign last year and was shocked at the animosity from people who disagreed with me. Keep up the good work AOPA.

  2. Ben Says:

    Well said. A little civility and reason will take us much further than the usual pointless bickering and sniping.

  3. JK Says:

    I just got my private about 9 months ago though and must say that almost everyone I’ve encountered in aviation has been absolutely wonderful. I’m convinced that the aviation community is the most generous and welcoming community I’ve ever been a part of. If it weren’t for that generosity, I wouldn’t have ever been able to fly. My ability to fly now is a result of a flight instructor who GENEROUSLY gave of his time and resources when I couldn’t always afford to pay him, 2 doctors who spent countless hours getting me a medical, and a handful of others that patiently gave to me in many different ways. While this attitude may be fading out, I’ve met some of the most generous and wonderful people at the airport and continue to do so. I only hope that I can pass on the generosity that I’ve been shown.

    That being said, I’ve encountered my fair share of jerks too. I was a student out at the airport about a year ago getting ready to do my first solo XC. There was a Bonanza parked behind me, the owner/pilot was fuming because the FBO had forgotten to tow him out. The airplane I was flying was parked in front of his. I heard him complaining (VERY rudely) about the FBO and politely told him I’d be cranking up and moving as soon as I got a call from my CFI. He gave me a nasty glare and told me “I don’t have time to wait on your instructor!”, mind you I had nothing to do with the fact he was held up and was simply explaining he could wait 5 minutes and be on his way. I was cranked and taxiing off when his tow arrived. Had he done the same, he could have been right behind me. I remember this story vividly because it is the exception, not the rule. Also because his dire need to be somewhere is going to get him in trouble some day.

    We have our share of jerks and a lot of what I think you are seeing is just people on the internet. In years past your exposure to jerks was less because there wasn’t a worldwide network for them to demonstrate their wonderful traits. I still have no doubts that the aviation community is among the most kind and generous community I’ve been a part of, I continue to tell people that, despite having a few rough encounters.

  4. Jim C Says:

    Well said Tom.
    I agree with nearly every point. Not sure when it all happened. Maybe the “internet era” is bringing out the worst in people. It’s anonymous, it’s quick and easy, and we don’t directly see the result of the snide comments. I’ve noticed too that there aren’t guys hanging out at the airport FBO or flight school, just hangar flying and hanging out like we did in the 80′s. The “personal” interaction seems to be largely gone. It’s not just aviation either. Seems to be everywhere.

  5. J. C. Says:

    Consider for a moment the type of person one typically associates with being a pilot, especially in GA: male, white, upper-class. Unfortunately, more and more in aviation, I see/hear upper-class white males perpetuating the stereotype of the intolerant, judgmental, “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else” attitude. More often than I care to remember, I’ve seen pilots at my local small GA airport treat minority employees like dirt, treat the desk girl like a prostitute, and exude generally nasty dispositions toward interested children.

    The middle class can barely, if at all, afford to fly anymore. Sadly, general aviation has truly become a rich man’s pastime…and, with that exclusivity, an “Old Boy’s Club” mentality and desire to keep “others” away. In recent years, the vast majority of GA pilots I’ve met have been absolute jerks. I know that’s likely only a bad sample.

    When I was a child, I watched in wonder at my local airport and developed a love for aviation. Now, as I finally find myself in a position to afford to learn to fly, my desire tends to wane when I realize that these are the people I would be forced to associate with…and, I’m not sure I would bother taking my nephews to the airport the way my Dad took me. Sad.

  6. Franco Valentino Says:

    Tom,

    You say, “we are still so much better off and freer to fly than pilots in just about any other country”. I think the “still” part is the issue. As a society we have been exposed to a constant, yet slow erosion of liberties in most of the activities we enjoy. One aviation example is lead in Avgas. I care deeply about the environment, but given the facts about quantities of lead in our fuel, the issue is much more a political one than true impact on health. So we pilots suffer. We suffer through cost, worry and aggravation. Another issue – ADS-B. Enough said. While the thesis here is aggravation, it’s never an excuse for rudeness or ill will. Civil and open discourse of the issues should always be our way of communicating. Let’s all count to 10….

  7. Tom Haines Says:

    Franco, in the FWIW department, the reason for the transition from a leaded fuel is driven about as much by the fading availabilty of the leaded octane boosters as it is about the environment. Sure, the EPA may be forcing the issue–over a very long time frame, but if we don’t make the transition we will find ourselves with shortages of leaded avgas at some point.

    JK: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Nice to know there are generous, thoughtful pilots still out there.

  8. Dave Says:

    Interesting timing. It seems we are having a national debate on ‘civility’ these days. However I would like to offer a counterpoint. I follow about a dozen blogs, forums, etc and found the participants to be open, helpful and objective. While pilots ‘do not suffer fools gladly’, honest questions get honest answers, even to the point of delving into obscure regulations and providing reasonable interpretations when necessary. Business plans are freely discussed and entrepreneurs are encouraged. I found it has been the exception to attack personal issues (never read anything about haircuts, but did read that a 300 pounder probably shouldn’t consider LSA, and even that was handled with respect.) So as a whole, while our society may have become more caustic I still feel that being a member of the pilot community is something to be proud of.

  9. Chris Says:

    Good article! GA has its bad apples and, being human, we’re all subject to times when we say or do things we’re not happy with later (Just ask my wife!). I would comment that GA is not becoming less civil but that the easy availability of public forums on the Internet (like this) exposes the bad, as well as the good, in all of us. I’ve been flying for 20+ years and, generally speaking, I have always been impressed with the customer service, friendliness and professionalism in GA. Your article helps remind us all to be more civil and THINK before we talk or type

  10. Brad Says:

    Sign of the times? Maybe. There are lots of reasons and theories for the many types of unacceptable, rude & egocentric behaviors that are exhibited, but no excuses. Let’s take a collective deep breath and remember all of the positive aspects of aviation and the goog things it does for us and our collective on an intellectual, emotional & spiritual level. Today, a certain political figure is being transported to Houston & hopefully a new lease on life. How are they getting there? Helicopter. AOPA staffers along with everyone else, take note. Don’t let the negativity get you down. Let’s all just hope & pray that if not eliminated, we try to do everything possible to keep it out of the cockpit and that safety is not compromised. I for one, would like to fly another day. I’m sure we all would.

  11. Logan Says:

    Really this has nothing to do with aviation, politics, or other suggestions made by the article. Its the same reason for such unabated aggression everywhere on the internet: the anonymity provided by open forums.

    This is the reason you probably dont experience the same level of discord in your face to face encounters, and why your memories of pilots in airports as described in the article differ from what you assume everyone is like today based on their protected and anonymous commentary.

  12. Jason Burke Says:

    Interesting thoughts. To put it bluntly, I think it’s the internet. Unfortunately, I don’t have much more than anecdotal evidence to back up my claim. But nonetheless, here goes. I have seen many of the same attitudes you describe virtually everywhere online. Like the news story you cite, there are countless examples of comments that eventually draw in relatives of victims of crimes or accidents (sometimes, the victims themselves). I cannot conceive of that resulting in a psychologically healthy conversation.

    That said, I have a counterpoint. If there is any group of people that would be given the benefit of the doubt and a bit of extra latitude for their frustrations, it is commercial airline passengers. I fly commercial air twice a week, and I must say that I have seen very little of the attitudes or outbursts that I would expect. In general, people are just happy to get through their day with as little disruption as possible. I have seen tears, police intervention, arguments, and disappointment, but everyone involved is still relatively civil to each other. It actually surprises me a bit every week.

    So, either people are really good at keeping a lid on their attitudes, are too consumed with their iPods or games to notice those around them, or really do have the capability to be civil to one another face to face.

    In sum, I believe the internet’s anonymity, immediacy, and lack of emotional communication severely harms us.

  13. Todd Says:

    Tom:
    Great article, although disturbing. I am embarrassed to read some of the things that have been submitted to AOPA. Although, my experience with the aviation community has been more short lived than yours I have taken the pride in the community similar to what you described. My wife has often commented about how pilots are the nicest people and that society could benefit from a few more pilots.

    I am sure the internet age and great levels of anonymity plas a role. However, having blogged about aviation and learning to fly for seven years I have to say the incivility is few and far between in my experiences. I believe the Internet has helped me experience a broader aviation community then I could without it.

    I hope the trend corrects itself and people take your article to heart and take pause before sending such thoughtless and non-constructive feedback.

  14. Matthew Russell Says:

    Tom,
    I appreciated reading your article. I believe that the lack of civility and respect displayed in your examples has become more common than the majority of us would hope for. Sadly, you can visit any news page that allows comments online and view some of the same. Unfortunately, some individuals’ are insecure with themselves or resist change and when a situation brings them “out of their box” they can behave irrationally….as was the case with your hairstyle example. Given the fact that there is a certain sense of anonymity online (albeit IP addresses can still be tracked with some accuracy), people feel more apt to speak disrespectfully with little regard for the feelings of others. There will always be those individuals that are negative and I applaud you for all you do. I am sure your skin is quite thick! Even if that is the case, you’ve made it bluntly clear that even the most resilient of people have a point where they start to ask, “When is enough enough?” Keep doing what you do with excellence every day and don’t let the few bad apples spoil the bunch :-)

  15. Tom Haines Says:

    Thanks, Matthew. The skin is thick, it’s the comments that get personal that are difficult to understand. As noted, I’m happy to debate any subject, but those who immediately delve to personal attacks lose my respect quickly.

  16. Jeff Aryan Says:

    To All,

    I also agree with most everyones’ comments and agree pilots are getting meaner.

    I feel a big reason, is more intrusion of the gov’t in our everyday lives. Before the advent of the internet if someone screwed up and did something wrong, only the concerned parties would know about it. Nowadays, when something happens all it takes is a couple minutes on a key board and “whoa-la” everyone knows what you did. There is no down time to reflect on the events and think things thru.

    Also, there is a feeling and obsession within the govt’s to vigorously prosecute every little infraction of the rules and regulations. Whereas in the past, someone would have been spoken too and the prosecuting agency would use and exercise more discretion when handling discipline concerns. The case would then be dropped, not hung over your head for years.

    All these gov’t agencies just want to compile numbers to say “Hey Look at what we are donig” and not lose their funding vs doing the right thing. There is no Sprit of the law just the Letter of the law.

  17. Roger Reeve Says:

    There are jerks everywhere but after 20 years of flying I have still met more nice people who just happen to be pilots. Far more than any other group. I am past 70 so I have met a lot of people.

  18. Roger Reeve Says:

    As a p.s. to my comment above I do have big problems with the Medical Certification folks in OK City. Foot dragging and lost paperwork make it very tough on those who have to go through special issuance. When everyone told me they were getting better it took me longer to get an answer. From 3 months to 5. The Doctor I see at least once a year says I am doing good, but the guy in in OK, City who never sees me decides my fate.

  19. Delvyn Rockwell Says:

    Great article. I remember when I first started flying we would set around the airport and hanger fly. I would live my Piper 140 on the ramp. Once in a wile I would do a few takeoff and landings. Some time there would be some one that did not have a plane or the money to rent one. I would offer to let them ride with me. Now that I am 70 and visit my local airport u\I can not get the local pilots to talk to you let alone take you for a ride. It is a shame that GA pilots seam to be there own worst enemy.

  20. Victor Says:

    I think a fellow commentator said it best when he used the term “Good ‘ol boys club.”

    the old farts at a local airport here sit in the lounge and heckle everyone that comes in… if you’re a pilot. If you’re not, you just get plain ‘ol ignored.

    I can remember standing at the counter paying for fuel one afternoon when a young man and his son came into the door. His son was about 8 or so I’d guess. He was so excited to be there, and ran up to the tall lounge windows to look outside at the airplanes. The group of old Geezers sitting in the lounge got onto the boy saying “Get your hands off the glass kid, you’re making a mess of the window” – I was appalled. The young boy hung his head and walked back to his dad defeated.

    His father was at the front desk asking for information about learning to fly. The man behind the counter was very professional and courteous. but when the geezer flock overhead him asking, they all chimed in about how expensive it is, how much time it takes, and how “if you’re not serious, don’t waste our time” kind of attitude. I could tell the man was completely shocked by their response.

    I had to intervene. I paid for my fuel, turned to the man and began asking questions. After a few moments, I offered to take him on a “tour” of the facilities to show him how the airport worked… his sons eyes lit up when I asked if he wanted to take a ride in a plane. We spent 2 hours in the air that afternoon. I encouraged him to come to a different airport to get lessons… but after that experience with these old jerks, I don’t know that he’ll ever get his license.

  21. Mitch Latting Says:

    Hi Tom.

    I was very sad to read your article. I do think you are mostly spot on as to why aviation folks have become cranky and mean. I do feel that we have become a society laden with lack of respect for others. You can see this in so-called television reality shows, with other Jerry Springer type TV shows, at large box stores where customers lash out at the employees, and on our airlines where we used to dress for the occasion and now show up in our finest pajama style attire. In general, it seems ok now to speak or do anything to someone else, without thinking how these actions will affect another human being.

    I certainly did not condone the actions of the flight attendant that pulled the rip cord and slide down the chute, cursing everyone along the way. I do have to seriously ask what brought that person to such a frustration level that he needed to act that way. Lack of respect for others I would suspect. Very sad indeed.

    In addition, possibly our electronic age of cyber space distance, has allowed us to write venomous or cowardly words. It maybe much easier for us to write such disrespectful messages, than it is to actually speak the very same words to someone in person. For myself, I have actually written words expressing my frustration of something or to someone, then put the message in my drafts folder, only to go back to it later and tone it down or simply hit the delete button.

    We were taught by our parents to have respect for others and to treat others as we wished to be treated. I cannot tell you how many times these words were repeated to us in our household. My parents called it the Golden Rule. Perhaps this is the breakdown point, at home with the parents.

    With this all said, I wish I had some clever words of wisdom or magical words of hope for you, and for all of us. I don’t. However, I do hope that all who have read your post will take your message to heart and consider their actions before they write or speak them.

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts to us.

    Sincerely.

    Mitch Latting
    Mooney Ambassadors
    Share the Passion!

  22. Richard Davis Says:

    At the risk of sounding mean myself, let me point out the white elephant in the room. Which is the recent mean spirited vilification of FlightPrep and their people (and to some extent RunwayFinder) much of it based on ignorance of the facts, false information and the blatantly biased and inflammatory rants written by one particular “journalist” on one of the internet aero news sites. Your comments in a recent AOPA post were also not helpful i.e. “FlightPrep’s actions have caused the shutdown of at least two Internet-based flight planners…” this just added fuel to the fire on the AOPA forum. So the next time we feel like venting, or righting a perceived wrong, I suggest we take a deep breath, check the facts and ask ourselves – is this the kind of message I’d like to receive from one our own in the aviation community?

  23. Windtee Says:

    Regardless of the external circumstances affecting GA and the aviation industry, Windtee maintains a positive outlook while remaining committed in supporting aviation and the amazing pilots who traverse our skies.

  24. SEAN Says:

    I agree, I heard the FAA is trying to do away with an essential form of navigation the VOR. GPS is great, but VOR is something every pilot needs to have as a backup. Also, I heard that all the old ELT’s are going to be required to be replaced by the 406 mhz ones in the near future. I agree that we need to stay committed in supporting aviation.

  25. Joe C Says:

    I fear that your observations about aviation reflect the culture around us Tom. Where did those mean folks you describe learn that mean is OK? Would you believe the Disney Channel? Have a look at pretty much any of the ‘Tween sitcoms that litter the airwaves — you’ll find constant screaming and hostility accented by laugh tracks. Disney isn’t alone, but its a nice example because the brand is still associated with gentility in some peoples’ minds. Have a look at any cop, lawyer, doctor or other drama on TV. You’ll find incredibly rude, dysfunctional behavior passed off as funny, intelligent, sophisticated, normative. Our media culture celebrates the bad and trivializes the good. Is it any wonder pilots are coming to reflect these twisted norms? Its very difficult to rise above one’s culture.

  26. Joe C Says:

    PS: I read in my local paper a couple of days ago about a breaking and entering case in which vandals “inexplicably” plugged a second floor shower drain and left the water running. By the time the homeowner and police entered the building, the home had been rendered uninhabitable by severe water damage. Inexplicable? Did you happen to catch a Home Alone rerun during the Holidays? I’ll bet the burglar did too.

  27. Jack Tyler Says:

    Tom, you did an excellent job describing a trend in our increasingly uncivil discourse and the only ‘correction’ – perhaps ‘addition’ – I would suggest is that the lens through which you and your staff view this lack of civility is necessarily narrow. As you point out, this behavior of ours isn’t about AOPA or even aviation in general. It’s broad in scope and driven by broad, deep tensions and fear that widely penetrate our society today. Moreover, many of these tensions are going to continue (and for some of us, accelerate) for some time to come if we look at financial forecasts, view the current political landscape, consider the health of many of our citizens, or consider the state of our education system. We need to get a grip – to lower our own selfish expectations a bit, and avoid that sense of entitlement that in part led us to our current circumstances – but whether we have the capacity today seems very uncertain.

    Thanks for holding up the mirror…

  28. Denny Breslin Says:

    Thanks for pointing out pilot’s seeming incivility and some reasons for it. Before I retired from a major airline I did a lot of work for the pilot’s union. I was a domicile rep for a crew base and sat on the board of directors during a strike, a sick-out and a contract “cram-down” to avoid chapter 11 bankruptcy. I also commuted to the union HQ and worked many long hours on behalf of my fellow pilots – for over 12 years. It was hard, mostly thankless work that had to be done well, whether it was appreciated or not. And frankly, the men and women I worked with did a great job under difficult, sometimes hostile conditions. It was during that “era” from the mid-90′s that I noticed how completely negative the union chat rooms were – to almost everyone who did not agree with the most radical approach.

    Good efforts were trashed and vilified – scorched earth – appreciation for time served and work done. When that administration was voted out of office and a new “hard line” leadership elected. Their efforts were a complete and utter failure. In the subsequent 3 years no progress was made towards a new well-deserved contract. Civility or tolerance for opposite opinion was (and possibly still is) dead. It may be creeping back, I don’t know. The chat rooms where civil discussion used to be possible are just too nasty to read. I’m sure it is partly because the industry has been beaten down and frustration is being taken out through angry discourse. But the bottom line is – how has that worked out for anybody? Intelligent discussion and healthy respect for constructive criticism works so much better, but it seems it isn’t enough anymore. Something more is required to get everybody’s attention. Unfortunately those who shout the loudest are usually the least effective and the most destructive.

  29. Frank Pavlovcic Says:

    Excellent column. It appears that people in general cannot withstand frustration and disappointment without lashing out. This is a rapidly developing character defect of the American people. We should manage our frustrations in life like we pilots manage the risks in our field and approach it objectively with a clear goal in mind. In flying, the goal should be a safe mission. In life, the goal should be similar to the motto of changing things that we can, accepting things we can’t and, knowing the difference.
    Happy skies.

  30. Paul Nadas, CFI Says:

    Thanks, Tom, for letting us in on a side of social discourse that sadly has crept even into our own ‘special world’ of General Aviation. Having read through all the previous comments I would have to concur with much that has already been stated: over all, the world we live in now is at a far remove from the one many of us grew up in. My love for aviation was fueled as a child when, wide-eyed with wonder and awe, I saw a big yellow bi-plane flying overhead and doing some aerobatics. I guess my excitement was beyond anything my parents had ever witnessed in me, because the next thing I knew my dad arranged to take me out to the local airstrip where I could see, smell, hear, and even touch (!) these amazing machines and…I can only imagine…talk to the ‘daring young men’ who flew them. Now we have fences around airports, security gates, badges and IDs, barriers, access areas placarded with warning signs and old geezers that grumble and mutter and snap at a young boy who has dared to ‘smudge the window’ with his hand prints because he only wanted to reach out to the airplanes beyond. As for the comments about the anonymity fostered by the internet, the decline of what constitutes acceptable content on TV and other entertain media, and the general level of nastiness and mean-spiritedness that is posing as a ‘normal’ way for people to relate to each other….sigh!…it is all too true. I recall a flight years ago in a rented Cessna 152 to a favorite airport. While in the airport restaurant and gazing out on the ramp a marvelous Rutan designed aircraft landed and taxied in. I believe it was the Long-EZ Experimental. In any event, I had never seen one before and I found it fascinating! As I walked out to ‘my’ little Cessna (a marvelous aircraft in its own right) the leather jacketed pilot of the Long EZ was striding in. I beamed what I felt was a genuinely open-faced smile at him in passing and gave him a hearty ‘Hello!’ What was his response? Nothing. It was like I wasn’t even there! He just walked right by without a word. It was obvious to me that I wasn’t a member of ‘his’ club. Talk to some peon driving a ratty old C-152? Come on! I have run across this attitude more than once, I am afraid. My own feeling is that ‘my’ club includes everyone who is interested in aviation: no exceptions. That living American legend, singer-songwriter Willy Nelson, who is known as much for his uncommon generosity as for his musical talents was once asked who was in his family. His reply: ‘Anyone who wants to be in my family.’ Words to live by. We are all in this together. Let’s remember that as Ghandi said: ‘ We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.’ There is much to be said for a return to those things our parents taught us about how to treat others and how to live. I don’t know about you, but I remain hopeful that we will get through this ‘rough patch’ and remember that no matter our color, creed, gender, religion, age, or appearance, we are all human and need to recognize our common humanity. Amen.

    Thank you for taking the time to remind us to be more considerate and less judgmental. Sincerely from a guy with no hair at all….;-)

  31. Bob Williams Says:

    Tom, many thanks for your thoughtful comments. Thanks also to you and the many AOPA folks to work to support GA and our pilot community. I agree with the comments made by JK, that almost all involved in the aviation community, not only in the U.S. but elsewhere I’ve lived and flown, are supportive, open and friendly. My own flying and aircraft ownership experience has benefited greatly from the broader aviation community at every level. I suppose the impersonal and immediate nature of today’s communication media allows (maybe encourages) a reactive, rather than cognitive, style of participation. It’s easy to be thoughtless and communicate instantly and there’s little or no penalty for a lack of thought or civility. It’s a small thing coming from me, but I’m quite sure from my own circle of aviation friends and contacts that our broader community in aviation, AOPA members and non-members, continue to respect and value yours and AOPA’s efforts on behalf of the GA community. Thanks for your efforts.

  32. charles schneider Says:

    Your closing paragraph only reminded me of our current political situation with both the Republicans and Democrats. They should heed your advice too! Happy Flying!!

  33. Robert Jones Says:

    Nice work Tom. I think you nailed it by noting the impersonal means of communication today. It is the same anonymity that allows people to behave in completely different ways when in their automobiles as opposed to standing in line. The same person might be a complete jackass on the road, but full of smiles and courtesy in person. I have found that a polite letter responding to the issue often shocks the person into far more polite discourse.

    One thought though, be careful with accusations of bigotry. I’m sure there is a small percentage of people out there who qualify, but that accusation is COMPLETELY out of control right now. If you oppose this President, it simply must be because you hate blacks.

    I find mindless accusations and assumptions of bigotry to be far, far more destructive and hateful than a personal attack regarding appearance.

    Thanks again for a fine article though. I appreciate how hard it must have been to put that together.

  34. Becky Ikehara Says:

    Since the day I began flying lessons, I have cherished my membership in the aviation community, which I found wonderfully welcoming and civil (I am female, elderly, and a racial minority, by the way), and I do not wish to believe that this community has become hostile and mean-spirited. However, the examples cited are dismaying, and I’m not sure I have any basis on which to argue that they are outliers. I work in Information Technology so spend a lot of time online, and I must confess that 9 times out of 10, I will not read comments posted about a news article or a blog post or even a Forum question, as 9 times out of 10 they are rude, personal attacks and contribute nothing to a constructive dialogue. Since I don’t get out much (!), I’m not sure that I’ve sensed this same “in-your-face” confrontational style in personal interactions. I can only hope that columns such as yours will force people to recognize that this meanness is detrimental to society in general and that it is up to each of us to turn the ride back toward courtesy and civility.

  35. David B Says:

    What a read.

    I’m certainly not going to argue against all your points, in fact it reminds me about how I feel in commercial airline terminals. But it’s funny you mention St. Petersburgh. Recently I looked up an instructor at Albert Whitthed to get my teenage son started on flying lessons. We all hit it off from the start. There was plenty of camaraderie and enthusiasm at that FBO. Really, it reminded me of the FBO when I started flying in my teens. There’s a very active EAA chapter too; their Young Eagles program is fantastic and I couldn’t believe the cheer and energy of the volunteers on these sweltering Florida afternoons. Word about Young Eagles spread through Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. Local TV stations aired segments about the event during the evening and late night news. We’re fortunate in this area to have Sun-N-Fun, MacDill Airfest, and of course Fantasy of Flight is nearby.

    It’s unfortunate the AOPA staff is getting cyber drive-bys. I really can’t think of a more attentive organization, and this is based on real, face-to-face meetings at an Aviation Summit. A.O.P.A is to me those minds, faces and personalities — mobilizing support for airports, suggestions on effective communications to elected officials, whatever it takes to fulfill the objective. It would be great if we could attract more general public to those events so they’d see GA really is a realistic option for them.

    AOPA Pilot has been a gem as well. I would have never guessed there would be authors I knew from pre-high school times (A. Laboda, Hurricane Andrew coverage and other stories. There I was in my early teens thinking I handled a C-172 well and she’s putting a 210 through it’s paces!) As for goodwill, I recall a story (no idea which issue) where the author needed to pay some Caribbean island’s customs in cash. Of course they didn’t have enough but some Canadian citizens who were visiting spotted them the money without question. (I hope I don’t trigger an Oh, Canada! subthread with that.)

    Despite of the negative, ugly and useless behavior, I think there’s still *as much* of the things we’ve liked about the people in general aviation as before!

  36. Martha Higgins Says:

    Thank you Tom, well said. As others have commented, this mean-spirited anonymity is widespread through our population. There is a lot of fear and anger out there, and we have a perfect storm of easy availability to instant information, misinformation, selective information (biased news sources), impersonal, anonymous posting forums, and a culture of media and politicians fanning the flames to increase ratings or keep their “bases” riled up to further their purposes. Voices such as yours, and educators who specifically address this trend, are going to be needed to counteract these attitudes. If not, I fear for what lies ahead.

  37. Jim Stark Says:

    I beg to differ….politely if I may. Mr. Haines is suffering the burden of his association with the media. Many of us, including the aviation community, are fed up with what we hear on the radio, see on TV, read in the newspapers & on the internet. It seems that virtually everything is overblown. The writer, media professionals in particular, seem to have to ‘make a point’ and convince his/her audience not only of the correctness of a point but also the supreme importance of it. We are BLASTED with such ‘news’ and ‘opinion’ daily. Mr. Haines should not be surprised by the kind and flavor of the responses he receives.
    On the other hand, he should visit my airport where people are somewhat subdued by the economy and its inevitable restraints on our flying activities. Nonetheless, we do roll out our birds as frequently as 100LL prices permit and get our ‘Altitude Adjustment’….recreating the miracle of flight and cleansing ourselves of stressful day-to-day earthbound.
    Go flying, Mr. Haines, and rethink what its all about.

  38. 66lima Says:

    I agree that we see a lot of jerks in society nowadays.
    Anonymity can certainly bring out the worst infolks when their frustration meets a chance to spout off,
    Every group has it’s worse set of jerks. Car clubs, motorcycle clubs, and aviation groups.

    Those are the ones that get remembered while the worker bees go about their business of doing the small things. Empty the trash, recycle the aluminum cans, pick up the trash you left laying in the clubhouse, shovel the snow,mow the grass and on and on.

    Believe me, despite what you see, there is much good being done by quiet people.

    Alot can get done if we try to be one of the quiet people. Your reward will come at a later time.
    Enjoy your life and ignore the jerks.Most of the time they know not what they do simply because they aren’t smart enough to spot their own stupidity.

  39. Jack Green Says:

    Thomas, I must be on a different planet. In the 43 yr of flying and hanging out at airports
    all over the US. I have found that pilots are the must friendly and helpful people. I still
    believe in the pilots code of conduct.

    Friendly Pilot
    Jack Green

  40. David B Says:

    Naturally, you still may feel some frustration despite airing your feelings. Ashley MacIsaac observed enough of the things you bring up to compose a hit song about it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQGR6zVYPI

    Next time think of the song when e-mail that’s basically waste product comes your way.

  41. Jim Waldron Says:

    This is a perfect opportunity to, once again, prove that pilots can self-regulate. Maybe our principle (airport) export can continue to be ‘civility’. Classy article, thanks.
    Jim

  42. RP Joe Smith Says:

    No-one has mentioned Glen Beck or the Tea Party…!

  43. RP Joe Smith Says:

    No one has mentioned Glen Beck or the Tea Party…!

  44. Brian Dekle Says:

    Great Article. I have always believed that finding the good things in life is more important that looking for the bad. Unfortunately, many people have begun searching for the bad, which is easier. I think is something called “misery loves company”. Being nice to everyone reaps great rewards, I see in peoples eyes and their expressions. In todays world, people have begun to expect rudeness, which is a shame.

  45. Joel Andersom Says:

    Anyone who feels that many aviation folks have deteriorated into a bunch of jerks, needs to spend a few days at Oshkosh during the airshow. I’ve always been very impressed how polite, well behaved, clean, & friendly, everyone (hundreds of thousands) has been.
    This is something that is quite rare in large groups, & a credit to our aviation friends. Joel

  46. Jack Voss Says:

    Pilots, being human, are all subject to – well – being human. Maybe each of us would like all pilots to act within a set of behavioral expectations, but that is kind of naive.

    People are people; even a strong pre-sorting process such as licensing to be a private pilot will not winnow out all behaviors that may upset some of us. And, truth be known, each and every one of us are subject to doing something at which someone else will be upset or distressed.

    When FAA includes code of conduct in requirements for licensure, than it will be more of a reality. But, some rather notable pilots would have been eliminated along the way. Maybe even Orville or Wilbur were nasty once in a while?

  47. Dale Says:

    Beautifully written! One of the few articles I read all the way through. I believe the pugnacious pilots you speak of represent a minority of the pilots in this country. The main problem, which you touched on, has a lot to do with the ease at which we can now communicate without speaking to a face. In days gone by airplanes were simpler, the rules were simpler, and pilots were a highly respected breed of their own. No so anymore.

  48. Virginia Hildebrant Says:

    With regard to the rude and unkind remarks you have received, I believe it is the reflective of the generational behavior of those who are joining the pilot ranks. They are part of the generation where everyone thinks of one’s self first. They have not had good role models. They know little if anything about serving others and lack gratitude for the adversity in life that allows to grow and become better people.

  49. Greg Says:

    I cannot comment on the lack of civility among the pilot population, since I have been out of touch with it for many years. It seems that civility issues have permeated all aspects of our society/world of late, even reaching into the once hallowed halls of justice. See, the comments on the lack of civility by the Illinois Supreme Court towards the justices of the Illinois Appellate Court over the recent Ram Emmanuel residency controversy: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/3529832-418/majority-appellate-justices-burke-court.html

    I obtained my private decades ago and thoroughly enjoy all aspects of general aviation. Unfortunately, as a single dad for many years, flying was out of the budget, and now health issues are keeping me grounded. Still, I love being involved in the aviation community in any way I can, and am now mentoring my nephew who is interesting in becoming a pilot. I have always found that pilots are among the most generous of people because we all love being pilots and sharing that love with any and all whom we meet. We all have that shared experience of tackling, and conquering, a very difficult regimen, and one that demands constant nurturing. In my estimation, no other activity demands so much yet returns far more than it demands. Maybe if we all focus on what attracted us to flying in the first place, all of the personal animosity will pale to insignificance.

  50. Dan Harstine Says:

    I have to unfortunately agree with many of Tom’s statements. However, I believe that it is the population as a whole, not just the GA community that has worn nerves becoming very disrespectful of each other. The constant drone of negativity from the mass media, difficult economics, ineffective government continues to contribute and compound the less than jovial nature of our nation.
    This does present a call for action. We are in control of our own attitudes and responses to other around us. MAN UP GA! We need to be the example rather than the problem.
    Tom, just know that for every negative comment, there are thousands of unsaid positive comments and way to go’s that don’t get said. We need to do a better job of giving each other a pat on the back as well.
    BTW – If you do rig the drawing for the crossover classic that you all are beating the crap out of, please let me know. I will gladly save you the trouble and take it off your hands when you are done putting it back together. 

  51. Jim Langley Says:

    Good Morning
    Thank you for such a well written article >> Lets hope every one gets it! >> Jim

  52. Charlie Trunck Says:

    Great article Tom. I agree 100% with all of the above response’s. Hang in there and maybe the Jack Ass’s that ack like that will read them and recognize themselves and hopefully change for the better.

  53. maury marler Says:

    Good post, Tom. I suppose it’s a lot easier to be nasty when you don’t have to look your subject in the eye.

    I agree with JK that by and large the GA flying fraternity is the finest in the world. As a nonagenerian, I’ve been working on my private ticket for two years! All of the people at the Boeing Field (Seattle) facility where I train are unbelievably cooperative, offering suggestions for improving my landings, and encouraging me in every way. I love those guys!

    I disagree with your statement that our “aging air traffic control system is stuck in the ’40s. In those days we still had beacons, and our radio aid was the A-N beacon. Remember them?

  54. Bruce Liddel Says:

    I do think people are much more civil when they are required to use their real names. For AOPA, that would mean limiting posts to those from members, which would lessen the diversity of viewpoints, but might be a price we have to pay.

  55. Rodger Baldwin Says:

    I am a 49 year old pilot with just over 100 hours. The last ten hours in my logbook have been entered in the last 6 months and after a 20 year “break” from flying while I raised my kids. My youngest children are now 11 and 13, and I finally realized that I had this incredible gift to share with them and that if I didn’t get a medical and a flight review soon, I’d miss my chance to take them flying. In the last six months we’ve flown to KBMI for breakfast on the ramp at CJ’s restaurant, and had the chance to see their school and our house from 2500 feet. We’ve been welcomed by the folks at Heritage in Flight at KAAA, and have volunteered during the hot air balloon festival.
    I appreciated the phone advice I got from AOPA when I was preparing to get my medical, and I have found the safety courses and quizzes invaluable. Keep up the great work! Thanks to all of you experienced pilots for being so welcoming and encouraging! I am very proud to be a pilot, and really enjoy being part of the aviation community!
    Some people seem to think that being loud and being right are the same thing. Maybe it’s up to the rest of us to make our calm,positive voices heard more often.

  56. Ed Shreffler Says:

    Tom, I hope that we may agree to disagree. My bigger hope it that I can convince you to change your mind on this subject. Pilots are wonderful people by and large.

    I have read quite a few your monthly musings over the years and what you say is consistently worth reading. I think you are noticing the bad apples. Good folks seldom make the news. The stinkers are in the news daily. My location is not the friendliest area of the country, especially compared to the Midwest. But once inside the airport fence, all that magically seems to change. Twenty years of experience with hundreds of pilots and student pilots backs up my view of the way we are, the way we behave, and the way we care for people.

  57. Steve Vana Says:

    Tom,
    It is truly sad that a commentary like this would need to be written but I both understand it and for the most part agree with you. I did not pursue an aviation career after receiving my private ticket at Ohio University in 1975, but I was lucky enough to do some business flying in my job for a few years in the Mid-Atlantic states. I have always envied the positions you the writers have at AOPA and I certainly appreciate your work. To be able to work at what you love must be amazing. Thank you for many good reads.

  58. Steve Phoenix Says:

    One thing is that it was probably harder to take oneself too seriously in the past when flying a plane called a Cub or a Champ. Nowdays I dunno, a Citation? Maybe we need to rename the planes. If your jet was called a Flammingo III or something like that, you would just have to be friendlier.

    Yep, the homebuilders have the same problem. Consider a FlyBaby versus an RV-9A.

    Just a little bird food for thought.

  59. Tammy Brodie Says:

    What it comes down to is MEAN PEOPLE SUCK! Since none of us want to be on the receiving end of mean people’s comments, we should all be sure to not be the originator of such comments either no matter how justified we may feel at the time. It is NEVER worth the emotional energy necessary to behave that way and just like landings, the more we practice the correct way, the more often we will get the desired response.

  60. Vanessa Slaybaugh Says:

    At the risk of bursting the male bubbles, the meaness in GA is not just because it has become a good ole boys club. I left the 99′s and several other female pilot groups because of geneal lack of respect, meaness, exclusivity, and atitudes of “cattiness”. It is unfortunate, but I do have to agree aviation society has become the “haves” and the ‘have nots” GA used to be about everyone. Now it does seem to be a small subset of the population that has extra income, and with that it seems a great deal of extra ego.
    My solution is to infuse humor in the situation. Typical example: Several years ago I was mentoring a female Private Pilot. As she was making calls, she happened to state that she was over the mall, getting ready to enter on a 45 downwind. Several men got on the radio and took her task for announcing “over the mall”, Even though many of those same men make that very same announcement. Without missing a beat, I hit the mike button and said ever so sweetly- Oh gosh fellas you know us ladies always on the look out for a mall. When we landed, line services told me that everyone in the FBO was laughing so hard at my comment that they had to stop for a minute.
    I think each of us can diffuse the attitudes and teach our fellow (and female) pilot friends that when they display bad behavior it is unacceptable. It is our job and duty to behave in a respectful manner, but more so, to remind others when they are not.

  61. Lou Kossler Says:

    As a long time member of AOPA (25+yrs.), I have a hard time believing that the bad out-weighs the positive responses that AOPA recieves. I instruct at a small town airport 300-500 hours annually. Pilots are friendly, FBO employees are all friendly. Mechanics are helpful. I have had occasion to call for help at AOPA when I could not find an answer to a question in the FARs and anywaays found them courtious and helpful. Perhaps you should have a survey on the number of good to bad AOPA recieves.

  62. Tod Young Says:

    Thank you.

    This piece was well written, critically based and welcome. At last – a sane voice.
    I have just one point of criticism: “Our aging air traffic infrastructure is stuck in the 1940s.”
    Maybe a little bit of it, yes, but most of it? … let’s see: some in the ’50s, some in the ’60s…you get the picture. It’s been updated, replaced, reconditioned and rebuild a little at a time of all of the past decades. When I began my technician career in 1959 I helped service the low frequency range station in Portland, Maine. That 1930s equipment is now in a museum, replaced by the 1950′s VORs. The VORs were augmented by the late ’50s TACANs., both of which are still in operation, although in more modern, solid-state form (one of my early chores was to check the vacuum tubes! Another was to service the Model 15 Teletypewriter equipment – arrrgh!) The ARTCC’s 1960′s IBM 360 computer-based 9020s were just being replaced when I retired in the mid-’80s, by the first of a series of IBM “Host” computers, each level bringing with it the latest-and-greatest capacity and speed improvement.
    So, not to be ‘mean’ and nasty (like my wife, who was known in her ATCS days as “mean, nasty Mary”) I just wanted to point out that referring to the ‘air traffic infrastructure’ as “stuck in the 1940s” was… a mean and nasty slur upon all the good FAA folk who have been laboring under extreme political and economic stresses to bring it forward.

    Safe passage.

  63. Jim Moyer Says:

    Tom-

    Thank you for your insight and excellent prose. I enjoy reading the articles and essays you write. (It turns out I enjoy reading all of the articles you folks at AOPA publish. Good work.) I would like to give you some observations I have made over the years — no science here — it just “seems to me”.

    One reason the US economy is taking so long to recover is that the US mostly does not produce anything anyone in the world wants. (I omit details here or this would run on for many pages. I suspect most of us could make an extensive list in support of the above statement.) However, the US is the least expensive place to train for a pilot’s license in the whole world — and this product can be and is exported! I think all the flight schools at my home field (Reid Hillview, RHV, San Jose, CA) train foreign students and two of them specialize in this. One flight school was set up in Napa (APC) specifically to train pilots for an airline based in the Far East.

    This is a positive term in the balance of payments. Maybe you and the other GA letter entities have made this point before congress and to the public. Maybe you have collectively decided you can’t mention it in the wake of 9/11. For whatever reason, I have not noticed anyone talking or writing about this. Given that GA has demonstrated that we can bring money into the economy, we should be encouraged by the governments of the cities, counties, states, and nation to continue and even expand the service. It’s good business.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Regards, Jim Moyer

  64. Eric Says:

    Tom-

    Thank you so much for pointing out something that is pervasive in just about everything we see on the internet. The anonymity of responding to an article, blog, or another persons posting has become the arena of racism, inarticulate hate speak, and the ravings of persons that do not have the ability to act in a civil manor. Face to face, we still seem to have some sense of decency, but when people are protected by email, the internet, or plain old pen and paper, so many find these methods as an outlet for anger that is misplaced. Perhaps it is time for civility to enter back into good productive discourse and not everyone yelling into the dark to hurt someone knowing that they can’t be caught. Freedom of speech is a right, but name calling, racist remarks, and hate speak only devalue that freedom.

  65. Rashelle Says:

    Tom
    Thank you for writing this article. I agree with you. I believe, as it looks like many others do, that the annonimity of the the internet, and all of the problems and issues we are currently facing as a nation has lead more and more people to lash out at people they don’t even know, just because they can. One of the unfortunate side effects of this is that it tends to discourage many people from participating in on-line discussions about important issues because they may feel that at some point a lively and productive discussion will turn into a disrespectful, and unproductive name calling match. We all need to try and put our frustrations aside and be respectful of one another. Just because we don’t all agree doesn’t mean we can’t have a courteous discussion, and we might just learn something from one another in the process.

  66. Leo Says:

    Thank you for this article. Although, I believe we all know too well about this its certainly nice to read/hear from someone else. This is so true and unfortunately it seems that as the days go by things get worse. Its not only general aviation that is suffering from this but life in general as well. If I may add one thing: Arrogance. At a CAP meeting this guy maybe a year younger than me and I were talking and I asked him if he had already completed his PPL. He says “Oh yes, I have over 80 hrs.” I said thats really cool. He returned the same questions and I responded “No, I only have a couple of hours.” He then said with a very condescending tone “Oh wow, I guess you have to start somewhere huh?” This is just one example of many conversations I’ve had with people in aviation. Don’t get me wrong I understand that people are proud of their accomplishments. I love to hear about them. But the put downs and arrogance gets old fast. What ever happened to the inviting and friendly nature of aviation?

    This was just a small example of the most recent incident.

    Lets be civil and decent to one another. We are all on this earth just trying to live aren’t we?

  67. Gary Crump Says:

    Tom—I just now got around to reading your blog–too much feeding the bureaucracy the last few weeks– and I believe you have pretty much done nailed it. Lacking political correctness, I also believe that much of the vitriol eminates from left of the centerline types who have an excess of billable time on their hands and nothing else to do with it. At any rate, I’m glad we’re not the only ones in the building who see it and hear it on a daily basis. We know we can’t make everybody happy, but it does get old when we can’t seem to make anyone happy, including the guy just a few minutes ago who isn’t going to renew “because we gave him too MUCH information in response to his question!”

  68. Gordon Benn Says:

    For starters lets look at the Red Board sponsored by AOPA. The viciousness there is unreal. Stopped posting there because it felt like an inquisition every time I did.

    I now participate in aviation boards that require the use of your REAL name to join.

  69. Allen Burchett Says:

    Wow, I am amazed at the mean attitude many of these responses have. I would have never guessed this response surge from folks that enjoy aviation. You deserve much credit for enduring the onslaught.

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