GA Missionaries

August 31, 2011 by Bruce Landsberg

The season of politics will be with us through the presidential election next year. We might expect that aviation, corporate jets specifically, but general aviation in general will be singled out as targets for additional revenue and as something that we should somehow be ashamed of.

The irony is that some who complain the loudest about others using non-airline aircraft use jets to go about government business. Why the hypocrisy? They use them for exactly the same reasons: efficiency, security, the ability to travel where and when needed without having to get a quorum together to meet the airlines’ schedule. Simply—they couldn’t do the job expected of them in the time available without having the leverage provided by non-airline aircraft.

The so-called class warfare has begun but rather then getting into all the negatives perhaps it’s time to focus on the positives. It doesn’t hurt to point out the hypocrisy but don’t dwell on it. There’s a bigger story to tell!

We’ve talked before about taking people flying, or at the very least, sharing with them the joys and benefits of GA flight. While some will naturally gravitate toward the business use of aircraft, remember that the dream of flight is almost universal. Most people start on the path with just the dream. Maybe we shouldn’t fill their heads with all the practical reasons to fly. Few new pilots will get any real transportation utility out of an airplane until they’ve flown for several years and gotten an instrument rating. (There are exceptions in the Southwest)

Is it time to start a new mission? Is it time to promote the personal growth that comes from becoming a pilot—light sport, recreational  or private? The commitment, skill and knowledge that’s needed to become a pilot means it isn’t for everybody. When you become a pilot you become part of a special group. Anytime there’s another pilot nearby they are part of the brotherhood or sisterhood.

For young people, it helps them to establish an identity—way beyond anything else that they could do. For older people it blows out the cobwebs that too many of us develop going through the  life’s mundane activities. It’s not just a new skill—it’s a new lifestyle and a completely new self-perception. Others will not look at you the same way. This is better than plastic surgery!

Are you able to help pilot prospects find a good CFI and assist with the training experience? That could be tremendously rewarding.  Only ten percent of the pilot population needs to mentor someone and see them through the process each year.  It would make all the difference. What do you think?

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

ASI Online Safety Courses  |  ASI Safety Quiz  |  Support the AOPA Foundation

  • Donnie

    I grew up spending a lot of my childhood at a small grass strip in central Indiana. By the time I was 18, I had 400 hours in nearly twenty makes/models of ASEL, AMEL, glider, and rotorcraft … an adolescence blessed with aviation opportunities. My fondest memories of that time period are filled with the joy of flying and sharing the joy with others. And doing that within a tightly knit community of pilots. That’s exactly the reason why about a year ago, I decided to get back into flying and pursue a Flight Instructor Certificate.

    It’s tough to make personal flying make sense. There are cheaper and arguably simpler ways to travel. There are cheaper hobbies. But it’s tough to beat the joy and camaraderie that come from being part of an active flying community.

    Thanks for reflecting on this often underappreciated aspect of flying.

  • Laura

    At age 53, I finally decided it was now or never to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a pilot. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how cool they thought it was to learn to fly and then turn right around and tell me I was wasting my money….that I’d never actually earn money flying. Of course, I never embarked on the adventure thinking I would do it for a living. I did it for the reasons you mention…to blow out the cobwebs and find out what I’m really made of. For me, it really is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I’ve run marathons, biked over mountain passes, and pushed myself in many other ways. But, none of those things compare with flying an airplane.

  • Bruce Landsberg

    Donnie & Laura…

    Thanks you for commenting and I hope you will be inspired to spread the word. You are hereby deputized as “Aviation Missionaries.”

    I’d like to hear from anyone out there on what worked and what didn’t – to rebuild the pilot population we need to learn from the past ( what a concept ! )

  • Lee

    I see so many young people stuck to their hand held gamesters, living a make believe exciting life instead of living an actually exciting life of their own design and make. I think Bruce has nailed the keystone of what private aviation is all about, making your own excitement through diligent, disciplined effort towards a life of rare accomplishment, not to speak of elevating one’s perspective of mother earth.