The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and its members have convinced Time, Inc., that an issue ad promoting Time magazine is misleading, and the company has decided it will no longer run the ad.
The full-page advertisement, which ran in Time magazine and at least one sister publication, showed two light general aviation (GA) aircraft tied down on an airport ramp, with two nuclear power plant cooling towers in the background. The photo carried the caption, "Remember when only environmentalists would have been alarmed by this photo? Join the conversation." The clear and incorrect implication was that GA aircraft pose a security risk to nuclear power plants.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And we felt we had to move decisively to counter such a misleading impression."
The day after the Dec. 23, 2002, issue of Time hit the newsstands, AOPA President Phil Boyer sent a letter to the editor. In his letter, Boyer said, "By using such an inflammatory caption, you have chosen to begin the conversation by yelling 'Fire!' in a crowded movie house. You preclude any further rational discussion."
Because the ad unfairly impugned the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who hold pilot certificates, AOPA suggested that pilots consider contacting Time, Inc.'s president and publisher. "There are times when hearing from a large national organization like AOPA is enough," said Boyer. "And there are other times when hearing from scores of individual members has much more impact. This was one of those times when the members made all the difference."
Scores of AOPA members sent e-mails, detailing their concerns about the ad. One member in Pennsylvania pointed out some of the work that GA pilots do for the non-flying public. "General aviation does incalculable good for this country, and much of its work is done in the background—medevac, Angel Flight, organ donation delivery, to name just a few, and that's in just the medical field."
And a California member pointed out that the law requires pilots to have their information in order. "Pilots are required by Federal Aviation Regulations to obtain all information relevant to a flight before takeoff. Time should take upon themselves equal care in doing the same with this inflammatory type of advertising."
In an e-mailed response to those who wrote to her, Time, Inc., President Eileen Naughton said the ad was never intended to slight general aviation. "The ad was intended to illustrate how dramatically Americans' perceptions have changed since September 2001," said Naughton in her e-mail. "Before that date, the juxtaposition of an airport runway and a nuclear facility would not have raised an eyebrow. But since September 11, even the most commonplace images have the power to provoke us to see things differently.
"The ad was not intended to suggest that small aircraft pose a particular danger to our national security, or that a small aircraft could in any way penetrate a nuclear tower. Time regrets any inference to the contrary that may have been taken by general aviation pilots.
"Out of respect for the general aviation industry, Time has removed this ad from its media schedule."
"This episode demonstrates two things about the U.S. media," said Boyer. "Responsible news organizations do want to 'get it right.' And even in the face of an unreasonable attack, a reasoned response from our many members can influence the media."
AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization. Its 389,000 members account for some two thirds of all U.S. pilots. AOPA is dedicated to protecting the interests of all general aviation pilots, and to promoting a better understanding of general aviation among the public at large.