Last week’s medical transfer of wounded Congress woman Gabrielle Giffords by two GA aircraft perfectly illustrates the use of our nation’s air transportation system. One of the major initiatives of the AOPA Foundation is to promote and improve the image of GA. I never miss an opportunity these days when speaking to both pilot group and non-pilot groups to remind everyone about the benefits of GA. The staple of media reports, relative to GA, typically focuses on crashes or community airports that are perceived as safety hazards, noisy or playgrounds of the rich.
Now is a perfect time to point out the value and diversity of GA flight operations. One size does not fit all in clothing, government or transportation options. (I speak from experience in all three areas but don’t ask about the great clothing incident!) Those who tout the airlines as the sole air transport modality sure weren’t in evidence last week and for good reason. As good a job as the carriers do – transporting the gravely injured congress woman was not something they could have done well. We (you and I) should be pointing out that there was nothing unusual about last week’s flight – those types of flights happen hundreds of times a week. There are tens of thousands of charity flights annually for almost unlimited humanitarian purposes. There are millions of flights transporting all kinds of people, packages and every kind of etcetera directly to their destinations safely and efficiently. And please show me any transportation mode that does not have occasional mishaps.
There’s no need to be defensive about the use of GA for personal transportation? I would venture that many of GA’s most vocal detractors have personal automobiles, motorcycles and/or boats. Too often the public option just doesn’t do the job well especially when the airlines serve less than 10% of the nation’s public use airports. Why is travel and recreation above the earth’s surface treated differently from a policy or media perspective than surface modes? I’d like to know.
Make a point this week to let your non-flying friends and acquaintances know that GA is making a difference in this country every day in so many ways. In fact, let’s make a habit to do this every week. The U.S. is the last country to have any sizable GA segment at all and that’s because we have the freedom to fly and the conviction to stand up for it. In the Immortal word’s of Harrison Ford, ” Let’s keep it that way!”