Gravity challenges all who fly

August 15th, 2013 by Jack Olcott

It is human nature, I suppose, to compartmentalize activities—to classify them as unique while discounting what they have in common.  Perhaps such segregation offers some feeling of being special.   As an example, consider aviation.  We often separate this broadly interconnected field into specific activities:  Airlines, Military, General, Utility, Sport, Ultra-light, and probably others that we have yet to pigeonhole—each with its own attributes and advocates.  The captain of an Airbus 380 ranks higher on aviation’s food chain than the charter pilot carrying passengers in a Piper Navajo.  The professional aviator somehow has more of what Tom Wolfe called “The Right Stuff” than someone who flies for pleasure.

When broaching the subject of trends within today’s aviation community, a respected colleague commented that he notes signs of separatism among different aviation groups.  If you were not operating heavy iron, he observed, some in aviation argued that you were not really in the realm of Business Aviation.  Others say, he continued, that the minimum entry requirement for the BA club was at least a twin turboprop, and aviators who flew for sport argued they had little in common with those who flew for a living.

I trust such segregating attitudes are not commonplace, and if they are we can change them before our community is hurt.  Aviators share a special respect for the privilege of flight.  The omnipresent force of gravity treats all objects equally, and countering its force requires knowledge, skill and great attention to detail.  Each aircraft presents its own challenges.   Such is the universality of aviation, and all who go aloft as pilot in command share that ethos.

Reflecting the universality of flight, Business Aviation is simply using a general aviation aircraft for business transportation.  It is not a function of the aircraft’s size or performance.  Thus, in my opinion, the owner pilot who is able to use his single-engine Cessna to cover his sales territory is a much of a business aviator as the captain of a G-650 flying to Asia.  Obviously their book of knowledge is different—it must be—but their use of aviation is similar.  And their need to be proficient also is similar.  Regardless of what we fly, we have an obligation to our family, our passengers, and ourselves to be safe and fly proficiently.

I think a separatist attitude toward aviation limits the vast opportunity that being an aviator offers.   Rather, we should look for what is common among all form of aviation and celebrate the universality of what it means to be an aviator.  As aviators engaged in an endeavor we know to have great value, we should share our knowledge and love of flight with others who fly.

Jack Olcott

Jack Olcott is president of General Aero Co. and past president of the National Business Aviation Association. Olcott has a rich history in aviation, including working as a flight instructor and flight research specialist, leading aviation media properties for McGraw-Hill, and serving on various advisory boards and councils. His current activities involve advocating the advantages of business aviation domestically as well as internationally. Olcott has more than 8,500 hours of flight time and type ratings in a Learjet, Citation I and II, Dassault Falcon 50/900, and Beech Model 300/1900.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Gene Kent

    Well said! Pulling together is far more effective than pulling separately. To paraphrase Rodney King, “Can’t y’all just get along?”