As summer turns to fall, we are getting inundated with advertising for the upcoming elections. Some of us will vote straight party, and others will mix and match. Others may not vote at all, and others will choose based on issues that are near and dear to them. Aviation is one of those areas where there may be some split loyalty.
General aviation pilots and airline pilots have a lot in common and a lot of similar goals: safety in practice, efficient and effective training, and a desire not to burn someone at the stake for a mistake that can be corrected. But there are some differences, and some of those contrasts are sharp. General aviation groups, including AOPA, have long advocated for things like Basic Med, sport pilot, smaller and/or fewer Class B airspace allocations, and other pilot-friendly initiatives, with no tolerance for any talk around user fees. Groups like ALPA, SWAPA, and Airlines for America tend to push for ideas that would, on paper, help the airlines but that could hurt the general aviation segment. User fees are at the top of this wish list, but so are efforts to derail some of the aforementioned concepts.
As a pilot who may be embarking on an airline career, you will eventually be faced with having to make a decision between two pieces of the same puzzle. If you come from the general aviation world, you will have a unique perspective on what GA does and can offer, and it may not always appear to be in agreement with your professional life. I won’t tell you that I have always been in agreement with AOPA, EAA, or NBAA. I haven’t been. But I do know that without a thriving GA sector, our country will not be able to continue to produce the same high-quality, experienced pilots that U.S. airlines need. We have the busiest airspace in the world, and several airspace corridors here have more traffic in a day than some countries do in a week. An airplane is a very dynamic working environment, and that needs to be recognized and accommodated.
But, there are times when the airlines are also wrong. Fighting scientifically based work rules and duty times was one of them. And it is still wrong that those rules don’t apply to cargo pilots, but as of this writing, such is the case.
I can’t tell you every voting scenario you might face as a pilot. I certainly can’t tell you that you should vote for a candidate based on a single issue or series of related issues. But I can tell you that it is critical that you vote, and if you are passionate about flying—be it in a Piper Cub or a Citation or a 747—you owe it yourself to factor aviation into your decision-making process. Maybe it will tip your scale one way or the other. Maybe it won’t. But your vote may.—Chip Wright