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GA needs to reach out to general public

Bob Kirkby

 

Yesterday I was outside repairing my garden tractor.My attention was focused on replacing a bearing on the mower deck when I heard a dull roar coming from behind and above me. It started as a small sound like a wind gust then quickly built in volume until I had to stop what I was doing to look up.

I saw a flock of perhaps 300 to 400 tiny birds flying about 40 feet above my head.
Marveling at the huge noise those many little wings made I watched intently until they disappeared into a stand of trees some distance away.It occurred to me that these same small birds fly overhead at my place all the time in smaller flocks of 10 or 20 and I never hear them. I only notice them if I happen to be looking skyward. But when their numbers increased by an order of magnitude the cumulative sound from the air being pushed by their tiny wings force me to pay attention. Although I doubt the birds wanted to make a point with me they certainly got my attention.

This lead me to thinking about how important it is for us aviators to stick together in large numbers when trying to attract the attention of those who can affect our freedom to fly.

While COPA advocates for its members on many issues, those that are of a political nature very often require more than just the voice of even a large organization like COPA. Politicians and their immediate subordinates need to hear directly from voters before they react to issues and usually only the loudest voices are the ones listened to.Local municipal airport issues are a good example of those requiring a loud voice directly from local voters.

The significance of this may be about to be demonstrated in Edmonton. If you have been reading this column regularly you know that the City Council in Edmonton made a unilateral decision to close the ECCA (Edmonton City Centre Airport) last year.

Several months ago a group called Envision Edmonton and another group of airport supporters (Aviation Edmonton) began collecting signatures on a petition to force the city to include a plebiscite with this October’s municipal election. The plebiscite would determine if the majority of Edmontonians want the airport to close or remain open.

To force such a plebiscite the city required at least 79,000 validated names on a petition by August 27. A huge effort was mounted by these groups and other airport supporters and Envision Edmonton was able to deliver their petition to City Hall on August 27, with more than 100,000 names on it. That represents 10% of the population of Edmonton.

While it remains to be seen how effective this will be, the situation in Edmonton clearly demonstrates that only the loudest of voters’ voices can steer the actions of municipal politicians.

This points to the need for General Aviation to reach out to the general public for support. To do this we need to seize every opportunity available to impress upon the public the value of GA.

An excellent way to do this is through our COPA For Kids program. Anyone who reads this paper regularly has seen plenty of reports from COPA Flights on successful COPA For Kids (CFK) events. This program is available only through COPA Flights. If you are not a member of a Flight but would like to get involved in this rewarding volunteer work, just look on our website for a Flight near you and give them a call to see if they are planning a CFK event.

Most Flights that run CKF events can usually use extra volunteers, whether it’s pilots to fly Junior Aviators or ground support to help organize and run the events.

You need to be a COPA member in order to participate as a pilot, but not as a ground support volunteer. Read all about the program at www.copaforkids.org. Whether it’s CFK or something else, look for opportunities to get involved with your fellow aviators in supporting General Aviation across the country. Acting together you can positively affect our freedom to fly.

Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.