From lower avgas prices to growing hopes for third class medical reform, general aviation seems poised for a serious comeback, said the leader of a Washington State pilots’ organization after an annual meeting to set a course for the future.
“There are lots of things going on that could really give general aviation a shot in the arm,” said Jim Posner, president of the Washington Pilots Association. “We want to be prepared with an infrastructure for all the people coming into the program.”
That outlook—and devising strategies to meet its opportunities—emerged from a brainstorming session that highlighted an organizational retreat held March 19 and 20 at Campbell’s Resort in Lake Chelan, Washington.
The 29 officers, directors, and other representatives of the 1,000-member nonprofit’s local chapters were joined by state aeronautics division officials and Warren Hendrickson, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager, who briefed them on regional and national initiatives. The retreat focused on an outlook that Posner said reflects a need to update a long-standing mantra of the GA community: “Instead of, ‘Let’s keep ‘em flying,’ let’s get’ em flying,” he said, adding, “nothing happens until people go flying.”
Most who participated in the brainstorming session were of a mind that GA is enjoying resurgence, he said. So it was agreed that leveraging the membership by giving members informational tools to use to “talk to people who aren’t members and tell them why they should be” was critical to sustaining the perceived momentum—but not with a lot of statistics and other data Posner dismisses as “eye-glazing stuff.”
Because “everyone listens to the same radio station, WIIFM,” (the letters stand for, “What’s in it for me?”) talking points should demonstrate how it directly benefits a new or returning aviator to get involved.
“It’s very compelling if you say it that way,” Posner noted, ticking off successes from the Washington Pilots Association’s advocacy efforts such as making sure that state general fund revenue finds its way to aviation accounts as an example of the organization's selling points.
The group also brainstormed ways the Washington Pilots Association can strengthen support of its local chapters and help get people enthused about flying through promoting social activities like fly-outs, and connecting with other groups dedicated to flying and promoting aviation’s sense of community. (See the Facebook page for Flights Above the Pacific Northwest.) Creating a speaker’s bureau for in-person and Internet-based talks to local chapters also made the list of working ideas.
The new initiatives being devised to meet aviation’s expected upswing could also “drive down the average age of the membership, which is probably now in its sixties,” Posner said, adding that the more the Washington Pilots Association reaches out, the more the organization will become “a bigger voice for advocacy.”
To keep the ideas moving along, the session included appointing “functional directors” with specific areas of responsibility who would boil down the ideas to action items, and propose deadlines.
“It really works,” he said of the strategizing. “Everybody is a volunteer; everybody is committed to, and fascinated by, aviation.”