General Aviation: Are You an Advocate?

Election Day has come and gone and the Denver TV market seems much less colorful without the crazy political ads we’ve been bombarded with these past couple of months. One commercial in particular really raised my hackles. The ad said this particular candidate was in the pocket of the wealthy and showed a man in a suit heading out to a private jet. Why is our industry often painted by the media to be only a toy for the wealthy and privileged?

Did you see these two stories about general aviation aircraft being used to transport Ebola patients? General aviation is uniquely qualified to handle this and other public service operations.

This story from New York Daily News shows the interior of a Gulfstream III that has been outfitted for Ebola transports. The pictures are pretty cool but the text indicates our industry has a lot of advocating to do with mainstream media. “The two Gulfstream III planes look like the ones owned and flown by bigwigs the world over – but inside, the 12-seater aircraft have been modified to fly highly-contagious Ebola patients and medical staff.”

These types of comments make me angry. General aviation isn’t just a “bigwig” industry. We do a lot of good work and heck – when we’re transporting “big wigs”? That’s good work too. We’re a tool in the beautiful machine of capitalism. But I digress. This article is about public service missions.

I love this article from General Aviation News by Jamie Beckett. Unfortunately it’s not a mainstream media outlet so it’s sort of preaching to the choir, but well done Mr. Beckett! I wish some mainstream format picked up this article or at least the general context.

“This might be a good time to take a closer look at the photograph that got everyone so excited. You know the one I mean.

It features a team of medical care workers in biohazard suits as they wheel a gurney up to a waiting airplane. Their mission is to extract from the gray twin turbine powered machine a patient who is infected with the scariest disease to hit these parts since smallpox went the way of the wooly mammoth. That photo freaked people out from coast to coast. Most were looking at the folks in biohazard suits. Some were looking at the gurney. Everyone was thinking, ebola. Almost no one was looking at the airplane.

This is general aviation at its finest.

Sure, Congress and the president can whoop-up on some automakers for flying their private jets to Washington to testify before Congress.

But nobody notices when general aviation moves patients or medical teams quickly, from where ever they are to where ever they need to be, without coming in contact with others who would like very much to steer clear of the cooties on board.

Can you imagine if we had to transport these people by train, or ship, or bus? How comfortable do you suppose the average homeowner would be to see H1N1 flu strain carriers pass by their house in a tour bus with big stickers reading,  ‘Do Not Tailgate, Communicable Disease On Board.’  Somehow I think that would be worse.”

Are you an advocate for general aviation, like Mr. Beckett is here? Or are you silent when someone cracks a joke about your industry being part of a “fat cat” world? Widely held perceptions are not changed overnight but if each “big wig” comment is countered with a story about general aviation being used for air ambulance, humanitarian aid, or other public service missions, we might make some progress towards a more positive perception of our industry.

And even flying the “big wig” isn’t flying for the devil, but that’s a topic for another day.

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