Last week I had the privilege to address the International AOPA as well as a group of South African pilots in a separate safety presentation. The meeting was held near Capetown, South Africa. IAOPA, as you may have read elsewhere on the AOPA website, was formed in 1962 and now represents 70 countries. Here is their website: http://www.iaopa.org.
After listening for several days to presentations from various countries, several themes emerged:
1) The U.S. has the best freedom to fly of any place in the world.
2) Our FAA is a model of efficiency and reason compared to many other regulating authorities (!)
3) We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately (with apologies to Ben Franklin).
4) We need to be engaged with the regulatory and local authorities on a regular basis lest politics begin to influence airport and aviation operational decisions – as if that could ever happen!
The President of AOPA South Africa, Koos Marais, very graciously offered me the left seat in his Cessna P210 and we flew around Capetown and the Cape of Good Hope one afternoon. I haven’t flown a P for some 30 years after leaving Cessna but it all came back—the aircraft has a “classic panel” with the original Cessna avionics and they still work.
A quick comment on airspace will illustrate my points above. We departed from a small GA airport near Capetown, but their TMA or traffic management airspace (think of it as Class B), began at about 600′ agl. We immediately contacted ATC, but because we were so low they couldn’t see us until we popped over a hill between us and the radar site. This required flying close to the ground over houses etc., and we weren’t near any airspace that would have conflicted with any airline or international airport traffic—not well designed at all IMO.
Upon clearing the hill, they picked up the transponder and immediately cleared us to the coast where the flight altitude was 1,000. It was a spectacular view and the place where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet is also the graveyard of over 650 ships! One wants to proceed cautiously in such an environment.
A lasting impression is that flying is pretty much flying in every part of the world, but humans can make it far more complex than it needs to be for bureaucratic and economic gain. Preserving our freedom to fly sure makes sense—for many of our fellow aviators, much of their freedom has been irrevocably lost.
Hope is not a strategy—commitment and action will carry the day and it’s my hope that it remains the American way!