We are part of the community
Aviation as a whole is global in reach and scope, yet it maintains a feel of a tight-knit family. How often have you experienced, or overheard someone say they ran into someone they know at some out-of-the-way airport or destination who is in aviation? What are the chances for an encounter like that? In the community of aviation it is a frequent occurrence for many. That is one part of aviation that is always fun!
That begs the question, what are we as aviation individuals, as well as aviation groups doing to share the fun and excitement of aviation with others in our communities who do not fly and have not discovered aviation?
Most people in aviation today recognize that many in the aviation family are aging and may soon retire from related activities they currently participate in on a daily or weekly basis.
Sadly, there are fewer people coming into aviation than there were even 10 years ago. One reason for lower numbers of potential pilots is the cost of getting certificated and gaining the ratings and hours needed. But the biggest reason people are not coming to aviation is non-aviation people in large part do not know who to ask questions of, or how to get involved. They know very little about what aviation really entails.
This, however, gives people with a love and passion for aviation a great opportunity to meet the rest of their community and introduce them to all things aviation at the community's local airport!
It is up to aviation individuals and groups to make the effort to reach out to the rest of their community and invite them to come and see first-hand what aviation is all about.
There are many things groups and individuals can do to make aviation and their airport a friendly and inviting place for anyone to visit. It simply takes desire and a little sharing of the passion to make it happen.
When you think about it, there are really three goals to consider in this effort. They are
1. to introduce non-aviators to aviation;
2. to help the community understand the value local airports bring to the community that benefits everyone;
3. to help GA continue to grow and prosper.
Each goal has a level of importance that is essentially equal to the others. Each goal has benefits that directly impact the other two goals.
For instance if the initial goal is to introduce aviation to members of your community who have little or no experience with aviation, the benefits can be quite significant.
Once the "new" person is introduced to aviation at their community airport, not only do they walk away with additional knowledge about that unique asset to their community, but they may now have a growing desire to be a part of aviation. With an understanding of the value of aviation and what the airport brings to the community, they will very likely be good supporters of their local airport.
It is very important to keep in mind, especially if you are going to share an introductory flight with someone just being introduced to aviation, that they may have some preconceived notions and fears about flying in general.
It is, therefore, imperative that the experience you are about to share must be given with total consideration of what may appear to you the aviator, as your guests misunderstanding or simply a preconceived fear about flying. Remember that the misunderstanding or fear can be very real to the individual who doesn't yet have the correct information and details of aviation or flight.
To reinforce the importance of a gentle introduction read the following paragraph. It is taken verbatim from an article titled: Why the Frame Matters: How the Context of a First Flight Makes a Difference, by James Williams. This article was published in the FAA Safety Briefing, July/August 2014.
Mr. Williams says, "For most of us, the first flight is a transformative experience. We can tell you almost every detail about the experience. For aviators and aviation enthusiasts, the experience is so powerful that it needs no reinforcement or context. But sometimes we fail to remember that not everyone has the same passion for flight that most of us had long before we were lucky enough to step into an aircraft. For some people, any flying experience can be a painful or even traumatic one, (editor's italics for emphasis).
"So I implore my fellow pilots to be cognizant of that fact when we are trying to share our aviation passion with our friends and loved ones. We need to step back and remove ourselves from our own enthusiasm, and try to envision the experience from their point of view. Only then can we see the factors we can control to make sure our companions have the best possible experience."
When you have the attention of a person you are about to introduce to aviation, be sure to let them know there is a lot more to aviation than just being a pilot. Inform them about being a mechanic, an avionics technician, an FBO operator, or an aircraft fueler for instance.
Introduce them to the airport manager. Let them know about activities like Adopt-An-Airport where individuals and groups who do not have to be aviators can participate in a very meaningful way in helping to maintain and beautify the front door to the community, their local airport.
It is the responsibility of those in aviation to help introduce aviation and all it has to offer, to those who have not had that opportunity made available to them. Aviators as individuals, and as part of organizations need to go into their communities and spread the word about aviation and the benefits it brings to all citizens.
The leaders of the community need, and likely will appreciate, the opportunity to be educated and informed about what the airport does, not just for the aviators and mechanics that are there, but also for the good of the community as a whole.
Aviators and those with a passion for aviation are a part of the community in which they live. It follows then, that aviators and those with a love for aviation are the key stakeholders in the success of aviation. Thus, in their city or town, they are the ones who can and must make a concerted effort to bring aviation to the people of their community.
By introducing aviation to the uninitiated, it can bring growth, and thus, more business to the airport. It can also raise support for the airport among the local citizens whether or not they fly.
At the very least those who are not involved in aviation might develop a basic understanding of what the airport and aviation are and how each citizen, locally, benefits by having a vibrant and growing airport as a part of their community.
It is time for aviators and those with a love for aviation to take action and say, we are a part of this community, and together we can make it better by sharing aviation with everyone.