It was a privilege to attend the Wright Memorial Trophy Dinner last Friday evening to honor Harrison Ford as the 63rd recipient of one of aviation’s highest honors. It’s a prestigious black tie affair with DC and aviation’s glitterati – always well executed by the National Aeronautic Association and the Washington Aero Club. The prior honoree list is impressive with the likes of Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, several astronauts, senators, airline, industry and engineering greats.
No actors have been previously honored and you might ask why. With the possible exception of Jimmy Stewart, even though many in the entertainment business fly, few have been as passionate, or outspoken about general aviation as Mr. Ford. Harrison is the past chair of the EAA’s Young Eagle program and over the last 18 months has been one of the leading spokespersons for GA Serves America with the tag line “Let’s keep it that way.” His Wright Trophy acceptance speech was simple and eloquent in describing what GA meant to him and it went way beyond the use of aircraft as a business tool.
You don’t have to go far to find many who do not care for or see value in GA. No need to go into the negatives – we’ve all heard them. It’s time, along with Harrison, to stop behaving like victims and start educating the citizenry on what we do and why we do it.
You certainly have some ideas and we’d like to hear them. Here are a few for your consideration:
- Take a non-pilot flying, especially a community leader, on a nice day. No need to show off – just fly conservatively and precisely. You don’t have to prove anything because as a certificated pilot, you already have.
- Be smart about what risks are worth taking. It does not help the cause when we fly in conditions greater than what we, or the aircraft can handle. Most of the problems facing aviation today stem from accidents: High cost, litigation, regulation and poor public perception.
- Be respectful of other people’s view, even if you disagree. Take the high road in the education discussion.
- Show how GA really helps and serves America – Meaningful jobs, greatly enhanced freedom, ability to get to under-served locations, all the charity and public service work that light aircraft do — you know the drill.
- Explain the benefits that come with being a pilot – the personal growth, the discipline , the responsibility. (An aside – if more of our citizens had these attributes the country would be much better off.)
We’re all a little bit different after having been touched by the magic of flight. Share it and help preserve the future of GA. I’ll unabashedly ask that if you are able to make a tax-deductible donation to the AOPA Foundation this year, we’ll begin putting it to work in 2011. If your finances don’t allow, then look for other ways to help:
- The Airport Support Network needs volunteers.
- Pilots need to start spreading the word that GA is not the terrorist threat that the media make it out to be —- and let’s keep a watchful eye out at the airport and secure your aircraft.
- Mentor a new pilot. Next week we’ll discuss angle of attack – until then, have a happy Holiday season…