As pilots somehow we all belong to a pretty small group of people, who are either in the process of learning, at the verge of, or beyond our best days in mastering flight. That’s natural, normal, acceptable, totally fine. As a perk of flying, comes the sheer endless availability to associate ourselves with interest groups, created to enhance our joys of flying, but also as a tool to funnel our collective efforts towards a common goal. Existence. Hardly a secret, these days, without lobbying and political representation by associations, General Aviation as such would no longer exist. If some sensational politicians or some mind numbed press writers had their way, flying small airplanes would be a major boo boo. For years and decades, politicians, citizen groups and the press have done their best to shine a dim light on what used to be one of the biggest successful adventures of recent mankind. Today, hundreds of millions of people travel this planet on the very same principles and physics which allowed Clement Ader (1890) to launch into the sky, entirely unaware and blind to the fact that Aviation itself was not made possible by the Airlines! It was made possible by people who watched birds fly, and started to scratch their heads, wondering: “How can I do that?” While many of them may have reverted to simply spreading their arms and jumping off a barn, some sat down and tried to find out what makes stuff fly. It took years and years to create flying structures. Those early aviators had heavy chips on their shoulders, after all – they had set out to accomplish what no one had done before. While the “normal” citizens in their hometowns may have scratched their heads too, wondering what may have happened, others watched in amaze as flying machines became reality!
These true hero’s of aviation made much of what we see today, possible. Flying was a grassroots thing. It caught on, developed, developed some more and then rocketed off, like barely any other science. In these short 120 years we have gone from fabric covered stick structures to fully automated cockpits, taking off, flying, and if necessary landing hundreds of living bodies almost entirely without any help (other than programming) from its pilots. Looking into today’s cockpits barely leaves a hint, everything is full electronics, a few hundred people shifting from one cheek to another back in the cabin does not cause death, as it may well have, by the early flying machines single occupant, just 110 years ago.
Moving from the spartan history was accomplished by consistency and respect for the very physics, which allow heavier than air structures to fly. People got together, brainstormed and developed, pushed and pulled, built and crashed, all kinds of “Aeroplanes”. When Governments finally adjusted to this form of “collective insanity” in travel and started to regulate and license pilots, machines and new developments, things changed in a hurry! With the Governments intrusions and the subsequent rules came great hassle. People are funny animals and so it was only logic that regular, non flying citizens, without the slightest clue about flying and aviation, would increasingly turn towards the government to regulate such pioneers and their machines away from their back yards. Ernst Udet (a long gone German Flying Ace) once picked up a hanker-chief with his right wing while flying low enough to scare a common Ant into paralysis, today he would need a multitude of waivers, permissions, background checks and he would likely go through a four-week administrative ordeal to do it again. Our history is full of such hero’s, unfortunately many of them remain unseen and unacknowledged by the new generation of Aviators.
As a group, we Pilots needed a way of funneling our voices to avoid extinction, and created Associations to represent our interests with policy makers, politicians and the public, but also to keep each other in the loop on developments and new accomplishments. Today a multitude of such Associations exist, some very large, some very small, some even smaller! It is possible to belong to many of them and all of them initially served these two purposes: NETWORKING & ADVOCACY!
Many of these Associations prevented General Aviation from certain DOOM and still do so! Without some of them, we would have no Gas, no Airports, and no way to develop and approve new machines for flight. The bureaucracy of such feats, today – is too much for the average business who may spend years and years and MILLIONS of Currency, trying to get something they developed approved and permitted for use. Once they do, they depend greatly on the NETWORKING opportunities to let others know what they have! Today it has become IMPOSSIBLE to spread the word to a collective pilot community without facilitating the available advertising spaces in these associations member magazines, forums and newsletters. And heck, did we make a business out of that?! Wow!
Associations have become very, very powerful not only in their way of advocating – but also in enabling fellow members to spread the word about a grassroots effort. A huge monopoly exists, largely unnoticed by the average pilot, who may want to buy or sell a plane (readily available for free or fee). While much of todays upright walking individuals facilitate the internet, many more of our pilot population can only be reached by paying tremendous amounts of money. For example: I could build an airplane, get it approved for a few million dollars, fly it successfully across the country for a few thousands of dollars more, without ever being noticed by the majority of people who happened not to be on the airport that day, or sitting in their bathroom, thumbing through a bunch of strategically placed advertising’s in their favorite association magazine! Scary!
3 inches, 1 issue = $150, 3 inches, 6 issues $650….. :
When little people set out to develop new things, they depend on networking, help, support and sometimes goodwill of fellow aviators, to reach others, who may be interested in such things. If you decide to build something from scratch, you will need the help of your fellow pilots to get it out there. If you cater to only a very small population of pilots you will face INCREDIBLE headwind – while doing so. Why? “Just pay the money and put an ad in the magazine…” right? Wrong! When we little people join associations our interest is in the benefits of being represented (for better or worse), the common cause and the subsequent ability to see what our fellow aviation nuts want! Many times, the decision to push and pull something new is based on PASSION and may, just like the Seaplane Forum – I launched ~ 4 months ago, be aimed at the very values and mindsets which run today’s Seaplane Industry. It’s ultimate goal is to bring people together, free of the political downfalls and stonewalling and sometimes the associated censorship that may arise from the sometimes all to prevalent “big boys vs. little boys” attitude portrayed and lived by some. Suddenly the politics and “keeping up appearances” game becomes a hindrance, a hassle. The membership fee no longer gives us an option to spread the word without paying big bucks. Next time you thumb trough your favorite aviation magazine, do yourself a favor and look at the advertising’s and hints, placed in such magazine. Count them. Divide them in Small, Quarter Page, Half Page and Full Page advertising’s. Then add them all together and see what percentage of your magazine is composed of advertising. Then, go and read a few articles. See how many hints and links and company names appear in these articles. Mark them! Articles who are aimed at educating you or helping you understand certain subjects better. Read the “Letters to the Editor”. Realize that everything in this magazine is aimed at a certain goal. Every article, be it a news brief or an advertising, or a letter to the editor, has (supposedly) been carefully read, evaluated and found to be in compliance with the associations goals, mission profile and values. Compliance with such is oftentimes no longer regulated by the members of such organizations, it is left to the elected or staffed professionals and subject to their personal or professional opinion. If such is affected – your chance to spread the word with that association has ceased. It’s almost an equivalent to “pay to play, but not everyone is equal”…
Suddenly – the magazine and it’s associated political message or purpose becomes clear. It’s either a money-making machine or it’s a personal playground for the big guns. If there is not much else available to the associations membership; to share a word or news, the true value of the membership itself becomes $0.00. Especially small organizations, like the local “Cucumbers Growing Club” can really make a difference. The Question: How do you get local cucumber growers interested in what you have? I have recently researched all the aviation associations, (newsletters and magazines) I belong to, in terms of my ability to reach fellow members. Woof! Surprise! Except for AOPA: I can’t! Back to the local cucumber growers club…