National AP story paints dim view of GA

April 16, 2007

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dear Editor:

You printed a story on the front cover of today's paper by Bob Porterfield of The Associated Press called "Passenger's fees, taxes benefiting small airports." You might as well have said, "Your taxes are funding Al Qaeda." It's just as accurate a statement.

Maybe you are unaware that Fort Worth is surrounded by these small airports, and that far from being the playground of the "globe-trotting executives" who are "making out like bandits," these airfields are used by average working stiffs like me. I'm 51 years old, married, and have four dogs, student loans for my child, car loans, and a mortgage like everyone else. I'd like to show you a different side of the general aviation that is being maligned in this article.

Last year when my 76-year-old father in Albuquerque needed to have carpal tunnel surgery and shoulder bypass surgery, it was only possible because I could fly myself and my brother out there in alternating shifts every week to take care of him. The bill from the airlines would have been astronomical. I can leave Northwest Regional airport in Roanoke, Texas, and be in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, down the street from my dad's house in less than four hours. By airliner it would have taken the same amount of time to work my way through parking, the TSA security, and the 45-minute drive across town once I got to Albuquerque. And I would not have been able to bring his little dog back with me and the other things he needed during his convalescence.

Then there are the small business owners who use aircraft to get around Texas in ways they could never do on an airliner. I'm not talking about Fortune 100 captains of industry, but about the little guy selling stuff out of his home office. How would you meet with a client in Fredericksburg and get back home in time for dinner without general aviation?

General aviation does things the airlines are far too persnickety to do: How would the four barn owls get transported from Marshall to Georgetown that someone is going to fly down there next week on their own nickel? How about all the dogs that are being rescued from death in animal control shelters and transported around the state to their new adopted parents by organizations such as Flying Paws?

I suggest next that you Google "Angel Flight" and read about how we private pilots are transporting sick children undergoing regular cancer treatment from their small towns to the major cities where the cancer centers are located. The airlines don't do this for barn owls and cancer patients. General aviation pilots do. Why? Because we love to fly, and we don't have to make a profit at it in order to volunteer our time and money.

The airlines have been struggling on the brink of bankruptcy for years. Now they want to blame it all on us, and take general aviation down in flames with them. This piece from the AP is just further evidence of that.

Where are all these "runway extensions" that supposedly benefit the rich? Come show me one. Where are all these new airport terminal buildings? Show me one. Take a drive up to Roanoke and look at Northwest Regional Airport for yourself. Sit on the side of the runway and look for an airplane that appears to be flown by a "globe-trotting executive." Find me a jet. We paid for the taxiway repairs ourselves. We pay for our own runway. We don't have a terminal building. Now get out a map from 20 years ago and look at how many airports dotted the landscape then, and see how few dot the landscape now. Small airports are disappearing at an alarming rate.

There are many examples in our world today where one segment of society receives funding from an unrelated segment. I personally see no reason for the massive amount of my hard-earned tax money that is given to people who are unwilling to work. But this is not even an accurate portrayal of the situation in general aviation, and certainly is a very incendiary editorial to be featured on the front page, as if it were actual news!

My airplane cost less than your SUV, and gets 22 miles per gallon. The FAA imposes a huge financial and paperwork burden on me just so I can have the privilege of flying. What if the State Inspection sticker for your car cost $2,000 every year and took two weeks to issue? What if you had to pay $50 in taxes on EVERY tank full of gasoline you put in your car? The INSANELY excessive bureaucracy of the FAA, and the insane taxation WE ALREADY PAY in general aviation are rapidly squeezing the life out of yet another segment of American life, forcing new airplane prices through the roof and fewer pilots coming up through the ranks. And now the airlines want to kill us off altogether. It makes me sick to think you are helping them. Please check your facts.

Dave Morris
Private Pilot

April 17, 2007