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I will never forget my first ride in an aircraft. It was on a Sunday in the spring. I was six. Dad drove us all to Compton Abbas Airfield that sits atop the end of the Wiltshire Downs overlooking our home nine miles down in the Blackmore Vale. The four of us belted into a rather fine looking, red, white, and blue Piper Aztec. Dad sat up front by the pilot, my brother Justin and I sat in the next row back, while Mum and someone who would later become a good friend, co-worker, and fellow General Aviator - Brian Rose - sat in the last row. Once all of the checks were completed and the throttles were advanced, the lush British countryside became a blur. As soon as I felt the gentle buoyancy of the air beneath my seat I was smitten - instantly hooked for life. Now, thirty seven years later and I'm still mesmerized. Flight felt natural to me, and thanks to Dad's decision to pay for a pleasure flight all those years ago, I have definitely known what I have wanted to do with my life ever since.
There are millions of people just like me, all around the world, who share a similar first flight experience, or at least the same rapture that I, even to this day, still feel. I am a General Aviator, or a General Aviation Person, and I'll bet if you are reading this, you are too. Let me quantify how many of us there actually are; according to GAMA (the General Aviation Manufacturers Association), we total at least one-million, two-hundred thousand, here in the United States of America (I migrated to the U.S.A. from the U.K. in 1991).
We are classified by GAMA as Aviation Wage Earners (our wages come from General aviation activities. GAMA is excluding all of the people who work for an Airline and who are working within the Defense Industry. I don't know the numbers for the other two-hundred and one countries in the world, but it stands to reason that the total world-wide number is probably pushing two-million. This equates to one of us for every three-thousand, three-hundred and eighty people on this planet. Not a lot of us you might be led to believe. But when I tell you that there are three million school teachers in the U.S. and that we number one-million, two hundred-thousand, and I add the amount of money that we proudly generate every year for this country ($150,000,000,000), it is clear how important our existence is to the overall health of the United States' economy (one teacher to every one-hundred and two U.S. residents; there is one general aviator to every two-hundred and fifty-five U.S. residents) we are way up there on the importance scale.
As I mentioned before, our combined economic contribution to the U.S. economy is, according to GAMA, one-hundred and fifty-billion U.S. Dollars, which is approximately 8% of the annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Effectively we aviators, who are only 0.4% of this country's population, generate a full 8% of this country's wealth.
It is unconscionable that any government that is fortunate to have such a productive and profitable segment living within its population, would decide to do anything other than encourage such a valuable group to grow into greater numbers thus increasing its dazzling economic contribution. Unfortunately the reverse is happening.
If you have not already felt the cold fingers of ostracization sinking into your conscious mind, I must bring you the bad news that all of us aviators working in General Aviation are well and truly under attack! Our sweat equity is now being decried and denounced by a fiercely self-centered Senate and House, who in-turn are encouraging the far from intelligent and objective media to whip the rest of the populous into a frenzy of hate, avarice, and contempt that is focused directly against us.
You might accuse me of over-reacting, and blowing the events of the past four months way out of proportion; that is your prerogative. However, before you take up your stance on this issue, please let me plead my case.
The war against us began in late spring 2007. The Bush administration was taking their last swipe at the operating and staffing budgets of all of its agencies, before it turned its full attention to the ridiculous election circus. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was one of the agencies targeted, as their budget was up for renewal that September, and there was serious doubt that they would receive funding to continue operations beyond that point. Meanwhile at the same time, the untouchable cartel-like world oil industry was gouging record prices out of us all, and the decrepitly ailing, and famously ill-run airlines were seeking a way of foisting much of this added cost/debt onto their customers, hence the concept of User Fees was back in vogue.
The threat of a User Fee funding system for the FAA was relatively easy to combat at that time, because we had not yet been identified as pariahs by the Senate, Congress, and the press. The Airlines' argument was weak when it was easy for anyone with a modicum of interest in the issue, to see that the Airlines had been operating for years as a non-tax-paying group, who had been making their unsuspecting clientele pay what was rightfully the share that was due to the FAA, from them. The FAA got their budget approved in September 2007, and the issue hibernated. This period in comparison to World War II, as it affected General Aviation was, in my opinion, like Nazi Germany forging an alliance with Austria, mobilizing its troops and slowly occupying Czechoslovakia.
Next, during the Olympic summer of 2008, the gargantuan financial institutions Fannie-Mae and Freddie-Mac reported that they didn't have enough money to cover their debts. Next was American International Group (AIG), and while we were all trying to enjoy a peaceful summer away from the ever present 'fear-factor' that was continually mongered onto us by our subversive government, we all watched and became stunned by how quickly our entire financial industry slowly went into a melt-down of historical proportions. The only saving grace was that the oil price had dropped. This was good news until we all realized that the dinosaur juice oligarchs on their rampage of widespread theft had effectively mortally wounded the global economy. Psychologically we all went from a state of reasonable confidence that our lot was improving, down into what is for many, the un-plumbed depths of fear, financial suffering, and in some unfortunate cases, even ruin. Again, in comparative events to World War II, this was the ending of the Spanish Civil War and the Pact of Steel between Nazi Germany and Italy.
The battle fear that had gripped all of us in General Aviation more than a year before, was now replaced by the secret police-like spectre of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administrations' (DHS/TSA) assertion that they were going to introduce a draconian Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) to rule over us. This announcement was made the day immediately following the end of the week long, and pensive Annual Meeting and Convention of the NBAA, which was held in Orlando in early October. General Aviation really didn't wake up to the fact that it needed to mobilize its own forces against this dark force, until well after the next bombshell had landed on us all.
The U.S. population was now fast becoming borasic, tired, fearful, and worse of all, angry. These emotions just needed to be tweaked by errant elements within government who used the media (ABC being the worst) as its defensive weapon to deflect this collective ire away from them. But first they need a sacrificial lamb. Fortunately for them, and much to the General Aviation industry's chagrin, this lamb was delivered to them shortly after the general election, in the guise of the three stooges of the automotive manufacturing industry. This next bombshell foretold by my last paragraph in this article was this: Along trotted messers Alan Mulally of Ford, Rick Wagoner of General Motors, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler. The three of them, cap in hand, expecting that their collective appeal for a lump of cash that was possibly available to them through the Troubled Assets and Relief Program (TARP) to help them to continue to make payroll, looked like a group of 'deer in headlights' when the House Financial Services Committee vilified the three of them for using general aviation aircraft to arrive at the meeting. The lamb's throats had been sliced and their blood was pouring over general aviation. This meeting would prove to be the figurative invasion of our Poland. We were at war, and we didn't even really know why we were the victims of the assault.
Our forces have now well and truly been rallied together as conscripts in defense of General Aviation. More are actively being recruited from every corner of our industry. Both you and I must respond to this call of action, pick up our pikes and scythes, and march forward in a collective battle group. Unfortunately for many of us our companies Chairman, Presidents and Chief Executives are adopting a defensive stance in place of the fighting spirit that they are normally known for. Don't let their 'head-in-the-sand' attitude put you off though, as you may pick-up your equipment and provisions from many active quartermasters within our industry including AOPA, NBAA, AAAA, GAMA, AEAA, even NATA. The best place to start as a new recruit is with the wonderful resource centre that has been created by the combined forces of GAMA and the NBAA. They have revitalized the old slogan "NO PLANE - NO GAIN" which was coined in the early 1990's for the movement that then promoted the business segment of General Aviation. Today's movement which started out in a way similar to the French Resistance is now growing into a full-blown Delta-Force. I urge you today, without any delay to report for duty by clicking on the following link: http://noplanenogain.org/ because your future well-being depends on it!
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