Posted 22 days ago ago by Admin
As a young person, I was intrigued by the mere fact of an aircraft in flight. I had no knowledge of aviation as no one in my immediate family had ever flown. When I was about 10 years of age, we moved next to an airport. I would often ride my bike to the airport and watch planes takeoff and land, meet pilots, and eventually engaged in aviation by washing aircraft. Lots and lots of aircraft!
Today, my story is almost impossible to repeat. Airports are no longer available for the common enthusiast to enjoy. Fences, no parking zones, TSA, and that fact that anyone watching aircraft at an airport are now considered suspicious has limited access to our wonderous industry. Is aviation no longer available to be enjoyed by the spectator who loves taking pictures of pilots committing aviation on the weekends? It would seem so as many airports have signage not allowing photos, nor having any position on the airport for aviation enthused citizens to park and view interesting airport operations.
How did our industry change so drastically? Many will say it began September 11th, 2001. I would agree that 9/11 set in motion many airport security initiatives that significantly limited airport access. Although many of the security measures began with good intentions, community leaders engaged in airport noise and purported safety issues are utilizing security to reach many airport reduction or elimination goals.
In 1994, I was advised by the Director of Airports that managed the airport we were located had been directed by County officials to “shut me down”. Since we were compliant with all County policies and procedures, my initial action was to meet with community members and airport leadership to develop a proactive plan to meet their concerns. It was quite evident they had no intention of developing a plan other than for us to cease operations. Although the airport had been at that location since 1941, the fact that each resident had known of the airports existence when they purchased their home had no bearing on their decision to shutdown the airport. As one community member stated, “times change and it’s time for the airport to go”.
The greatest threat to aviation today is noise and the reduction of community acceptance and interest in aviation activities. The ability for aviation noise activists to use aviation safety as their pulpit while ignoring factual data to reach their goals is now commonplace. It does not matter if our accident rate was near zero, the fact the aircraft continues to produce noise reminds them of their primary goal; eliminate aviation noise by any means necessary.
Many factors have affected aviation, but none as overarching as noise. By limiting access to airports, the number of pilots and flight operations at airports continue to decline. The adverse effect on industry is a reduction in aviation enthusiasts becoming pilots. As flight training costs continue to increase, potential aviators unable to access general aviation will flock to other methods satisfying their aviation thirst. For many, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or flight simulation solutions scratch their aviation itch.
Get engaged in our industry and within your community to support aviation. Fight those that desire to destroy our way of life. At the same time, embrace those enthusiasts within the community as well, even the young ones on the bicycle. If you do not embrace the support from those enthused by aviation, their support and interest will be overshadowed at the ballot box by ignorance and disinformation. This is how bad aviation policies are created by politicians and community leaders.
Let your voice be heard. Fly safe!
Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is the owner/president of Helicopter Institute.
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