A passion for Flight

December 21, 2010 by Bruce Landsberg

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:

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • http://www.finalflight.info David Reinhart

    I clicked “other” in the poll and would like to have seen “all of the above”. At my home airport experience has shown that we need a multi-pronged approach that covers pretty much every PR opportunity.

    One of the things that concerns me is the unwillingness of many pilots to get involved in the political or rule making process. When something like LASP shows up I’d like to see a minimum of 10% of pilots making comments (which would be about 45,000) and preferably 90%, or about 400,000. The numbers never come close to that. On the local level trying to get pilots to write or call city councilors or the mayor’s office is an extremely difficult & frustrating proposition.

  • Bruce Landsberg


    Profound comment!!! Too many people just want to do their thing and go flying. “Let AOPA deal with it. I’ve done my part. ” is the mindset of too many. If there was ever a time and place to think globally and act locally – preserving GA as we know it – now would be that time. We could spend much more time on this response discussing success where local pilots have gotten involved and failures when they haven’t.

    Thanks for your note and willingness to get engaged!