Think Globally, Act Locally
Two examples of how aviation can and should be aware of its broader contributions
To those in aviation, the value of aviation is obvious. Many in the general public may not have the same perceptions.
For example, decades ago, there was great support for closing of what then was simply known as Washington National Airport. Suddenly increasingly greater numbers realized that with termination of this facility, jobs would be lost, hotels & restaurants would likely go out of business. The cause for this negative impact: the loss of the travelers using DCA. Eventually a collection of citizens realized that somehow their income derived some collateral benefits from DCA. What so many who worked for the airlines and just flew planes regarded as intuitive was not so easily understood by others. In fact, a few people involved in the aviation business supported closure because their houses were located under the flight patterns.
The below two stories are good reminders that those involved in this business must be conscious of the aphorism, “Think globally, Act locally.”
The Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association accepts the mission to actively promote the value of travel by air. This effort may not be best accomplished by direct “sales” efforts; for frequently the audience blocks out such obvious messages. A useful alternative, which the association has employed successfully, is to champion a collateral interest, STEM for example.
AOPA held its second annual High School Aviation STEM Symposium at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. It attracted 200 education and aviation industry representatives from 33 states and Canada. Their goal is to fill a gap in aviation youth education. AOPA sees leverage in teaching the teachers in a region like the Pacific Northwest. The educators return to their classrooms composed of a diverse group of students.
The teaching materials and other information distributed serves to attract these young minds to careers as a pilot, aerospace engineer, or aircraft mechanic. AOPA President Mark Baker said “there are real careers and real opportunities for students.” Baker pointed out to the attendees that a shortage of 600,000 pilots and mechanics has been forecast.
- Discussions on private philanthropy in support of aviation education.
- Integrating aviation content in core curricula.
- The path to a private pilot certificate.
- A presentation by Purdue University, which has partnered with AOPA to develop pathways of curricula for high school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) aviation programs.
- Speech by retired NASA astronaut Nicole.
The real outcome of this AOPA initiative is the creation of a network of youth who become excited about aviation, who communicate their interest to their parents & family and who subtly create a cadre of people who understand the value of aviation. That’s taking a global need and acting locally.
The next example is drawn from an even more micro level and the “lesson” is written as a form for other communities. It involves the Arcadia Airport (X06) in Arcadia, Florida. Once a hub of WWII flight training, it deteriorated after years of neglect. Earlier this decade, the Arcadia City Council established the Arcadia Airport Advisory Committee.
Funding from the FAA and Florida Department of Transportation was reinstated. The members recognized that an Advisory Committee has lots of duties, but no power.
They decided to create a base of support within the town, the Friends of Arcadia Airport. FOAA was established “to support our airport and aviation-related events that will help to bring attention to what the airport has to offer.” “We had a lot of opposition to anything we tried to do in the first two years,” said FOAA President George Chase. “But four years in, we have turned things around and the airport is growing.”
FOAA then serendipitously was contacted by the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), and together they created a space for planes to fly in to camp for events in Arcadia.
That singular occasion morphed into a permanent facility called Aviation City in reference to its years as the location of military aviation training.
That simple initiative has brought more visitors to Aviation City; its current schedule of fly-in’s is robust-three upcoming three-day weekend fly-in/camp-outs already scheduled: Nov. 11-13, 2016, Feb. 17-19, 2017, and the Fourth Annual Rodeo Weekend Fly-In is March 10-12, 2017.
What was in danger of becoming a blighted property is now a vibrant facility. Increased use translates to new spending by visitors. By perceiving the broader value of the airport and adding simple local amenities, the Arcadia Airport is contributing more to its community and those neighbors are more aware about its benefits.
Two good models of how aviation can and should be aware of its broader positive contributions. With that vision, the local actions have been supportive of airplanes and airports to these cities.