2016 Aviation Civicswhat you should do for your country & your industry

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2016 Aviation Civics: How to Change Your Country & Industry

The 2016 election is quickly coming to a resolution and it is increasingly evident that the eventual two/three/four candidates will be desperate for votes. That’s a great situation for the voters; the aspiring presidents WILL HAVE TO LISTEN to you.

As Charles E. Weller, a noted typing teacher and historian, once intoned the following apt sentence for a test:


The efforts of AOPA, A4ANBAA and others submitted position papers to the 2012 candidates to no avail. Visible efforts by unions to impact President Obama’s budgets, policies and State-of-the-Union speeches had invisible (no?) results. None of these interventions were able to pierce the thick layer of advisors who surrounded the candidates.

At this point in 2016, the policy gurus employed by the candidates are searching for ideas which will capture the imagination of the electorate. That observation defines an opportunity.

What you can/should do:

  • For that candidate you should volunteer to do anything, the earlier the better; initially you may only be making calls, handing out signs, etc. {one person soliciting for a R candidate in 2012 and actually called and talked to Mr. Trump}. Eventually, the staff may recognize that you can do more and they will move you up the pecking order. Here are the links to the top three candidate organizations:
  • Either through that volunteer experience (a productive route) or by cold calling the candidates’ staffs, OFFER to write substantive policy papers on aviation issues about which you have some knowledge and for which you have passion.


  • Take time to research the subject. While you may be able to ably articulate your views, support from noted columnists, academic experts, etc., will add to your credibility.
  • Find data, hard facts and reliable numbers not only increase the position’s stature, but also provide important material for the staff to use.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs—try to relate your view to the creation (or retention) of new positions.
  • Marry your views with positions taken by the candidate, i.e. Senator X authored a bill opposing an increase in aviation ticket taxes. Since you have found “precedent,” your idea will be approved more easily. It will be rare to find an exact match; so be creative. The Google Search and legislative search machines (gov, House.gov, OpenCongress.org, the Members’ own websites and many other good ones) will help you identify comparable positions. Most good libraries will have reference experts to help you.
  • Do not write in vitriolic language (even if the candidate tends to talk that way). Logical, well-supported statements are more likely to be read and thus increase their adoption.
  • Do not use acronyms or jargon; i.e. convert NextGen to a short description of the program with a link to a more detailed website. FAR 121 means a lot to you, but the policy people are more likely to recognize 14 C.F.R. Part 121 (again a link is helpful).
  • Quantify how many people are certain (likely) to vote for the candidate based on this position—X million travelers; Y million airline employees, Z million new jobs.
  • If possible get endorsements, like
    • Think tanks (i.e. AEI, Brookings)
    • Local elected officials (from the same party)
    • Scholars
    • Trade Associations or Unions
  • Pick high profile issues like:
    • NextGen
    • Passenger Facility Charges (↑or↓)
    • ATC Privatization
    • Noise
    • Taxes
    • NAI
  • If you climb up the ranks during the campaign, your job is not done on November 8, 2016. Offer to help in the vetting of executive personnel as political appointments to the FAA (there less than 10 presently), DoT (many more, but a select number with aviation impact) and NTSB. It has happened that positions have been filled with folks on the search team.
  • NOTE: there has been no mention of political donations. Yes, it helps, but only if you can (legally) give mega dollars. Many hours of good work = a contribution.

Many citizens have expressed their disgust with the existing political establishment. If you sit on the sidelines and do nothing, the chances of change are reduced. Even if you do not reach the upper echelons known to influence major decisions, your efforts at the grassroots will create a sense of ownership in your chosen candidate.

Democracy, as conceived by the Founding Fathers, envisioned citizens taking individual actions. There is no doubt about the importance of 2016 campaign to the nation and aviation; so your civic duty should compel you to action.

As President Kennedy said in his 1961 Inaugural Speech: “So my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you! Ask What you can do for your country!”

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