Promoting aviation is necessary to foster growth in the pilot population. Consequently, when we commit to spreading the word about General Aviation, we also protect our GA airports. Both promotion and protection will help ensure the growth of the aviation community. Here are 5 things you can do immediately to become part of the “We Team” to help ensure growth in our aviation community.
Define General Aviation to the public
In order to promote General Aviation, we need to define it effectively for the non-flying public. It is important to be positive and focus on the ways that GA helps our communities and our citizens. Everyone would benefit from knowing how General Aviation affects him or her on a daily basis. A few key ways are:
- Emergency Response such as Highway Patrol, Search and Rescue, Firefighting, Pipeline Patrol and the Police
- Fed Ex/UPS feeders
- Charitable Flying such as LightHawk, Pilots and Paws, Angel Flight, Flying Doctors or the Flying Samaritans
- Business Flying
- Wildlife Management
- Air Shows & Races, Flight Museums Airport Days
- Agricultural Flying
- Media Flying/ News reporting
- Movie Making
Become a mentor
One of the quickest ways to promote general aviation and increase the pilot population is to become a mentor to a teen or adult. You might be surprised I didn’t say to mentor a child. The fact is, we will always talk airplanes with a small kid. However the 6 year old won’t even be able to solo for 10-11 years. Talk to adults or late teens at aviation events. Show them the inside of an airplane, take them on a flight, and talk to them about the process to become licensed. Help get them interested and excited about aviation!
Become a professional pilot
No, we don’t all have to fly for the airlines. But consider your initial certification as a license to learn. How long has it been since you attended a day-long, or weekend-long educational event? Events where we are learning from aviation leaders make us pro pilots whether flying a P-J 3 Cub or a PC-24 Pilatus Jet. I recently attended a day long IFR ground school refresher course put on by the Orange County 99s. In the audience of 60+ attendees about 12 of us were current IR pilots, 8 instrument students, and the remainder was pilots who wanted to get current to fly in the instrument system again. Rough math says nearly 70% of us in attendance were rusty IR pilots. This educational opportunity was under $100 and included lunch and WINGS credit. Look for courses in your area or region. Learn from the masters and become a pro pilot.
Make your airport a good neighbor
Think about events at your home airport and ways that you can make it a good neighbor in your community. The better community partner an airport is, the more protected it is from encroachment and the more potential pilots will attend. Some great ideas to help rally your local community and spark interest in your airport and general aviation are:
- Airport Day
- Toys for Tots
- Fly-In Movie Night
- Young Aviator Camp
- 4-H Aero, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts
- Learn to Fly Day
- Take someone for an orientation ride
- Introduce someone to a flight instructor
- Host an airport open house, fly-in breakfast, or mall show
- Make a presentation to another organization
- Host a program swap with other organizations (e.g. a model airplane club)
- Emergency Responder Appreciation Event
- School Assemblies
- Type-Club Fly-Ins
- Service Club Speaker
When we combine community connection and positivity to our airports we will help ensure our airports for years to come.
Become part of the We Team
Challenge yourself to stop merely attending aviation events. Instead, join the We Team by volunteering. Many times while focused on “me” we fly to an aviation event for a fuel discount, to hear a favorite speaker for free, or to buy raffle tickets for donated prizes. There is nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t love to support GA events, especially the smaller ones? Take a moment to think about how you could connect with the event instead by becoming part of the “we.” Most grassroots groups need volunteers. Chances are when you volunteer, you will bring someone else with you, which not only helps the event, but enriches our aviation community as well.
Growing our aviation community follows a pretty simple formula: Become informed and educated, mentor, speak out, stand up, and show up.