Promoting and Supporting General Aviation and the Public's Understanding of it

Improving Public Understanding
and Perception of General Aviation  

A major program area for consideration revolves around how the general public perceives the range of activities encompassing general aviation, and how the Wolf Foundation might improve public understanding of the benefits - real and potential - of this field of activity. 

Many projects could be considered for support that could result in significant accomplishments. For example, the current buzz words in transportation planning are INTERMODAL and MULTIMODAL transportation.

Intermodal transportation focuses on the ways in which different modes link up to each other in either an efficient or problematic way - such as transferring passengers from autos to light rail systems, or taking freight from trucks and loading it on airplanes. Typical intermodal projects include commuter lots along expressways to encourage people to leave their cars to ride buses or improved roads and signage leading into airports.

Multimodal transportation instead tries to understand which mode is most appropriate for different parts of the transportation mission and to encourage use of the best modes.

For mail transport that might mean that rural mail carriers in mini-jeeps pick up mail and take it to postal centers. There large trucks move the mail to air carrier airports, where the mail travels in the bellies of passenger jets. Another example might be piggyback truck/train arrangements where trailers are moved by truck at both ends of a trip but travel the longer distances by rail.

General aviation, however, is often completely forgotten in intermodal and multimodal planning. The emphasis is on mass transit among major traffic hubs and on commodity movement.

The lack of general aviation subjects in transportation planning conferences underline   little understanding exists among transportation planners regarding the rich opportunities and diversity of activities that lie in the field of general aviation.

In the Second Major Airport study concerning Boston's Logan International Airport, the related Strategic Assessment Review of transportation options, and the New England Transportation Initiative studying intermodal options no perception was evident among professional planners concerning the ways in which general aviation, charter, air taxi, and light commuter air operations could alleviate congestion on our streets and expressways.

Attendees at these discussions were surprised to learn how easily they might get people out of their cars and onto charter and regional commuter air transportation modes given a coordinated effort, yet with little investment in infrastructure. Conversely, they were frustrated by the difficulties in trying to get people out of their cars onto buses and other mass transport. It took time and effort to show these planners that people would not trade a faster, more convenient form of transport for slow buses - no matter how energy efficient the buses might be.

In most current planning efforts the "experts" keep trying to use a "stick" to force people out of their cars. I see great opportunities for teaching planners that more effective "carrots" are available, based on showing travelers that faster, more efficient transport is available through the development of better understanding of the air transportation system.

General aviation benefits society in many other ways, which are often not generally understood. Here are just a few examples:

bulletgeneral aviation aircraft provide essential mobility for business and personal purposes,
bulletas technology permits people to collaborate over larger and larger distances, general aviation will increasingly serve to bring them together for essential face-to-face meetings,
bulletgeneral aviation aircraft are increasingly essential for life saving missions, including blood and organ transport,
bulletgeneral aviation and small airports provide strategically essential air service to small and remote communities for many critical missions,
bulletgeneral aviation aircraft provide many public services, including law enforcement and traffic management,
bulletgeneral aviation aircraft reward viewers of movies and television with new perspectives on the world around us,
bulletgeneral aviation aircraft fly many environmental support missions,
bulletgeneral aviation aircraft and airports are an excellent gateway to aerospace careers for those interested in aviation and space technology, and
bulletgeneral aviation and regional commuter aircraft share and encourage the growth of similar facilities at airports in the smaller communities, leading to increased use by the general public of multi-person air transport for missions that otherwise might take place in single-occupant cars.

As discussed elsewhere in this document, airports are where the battle for improved public perception and understanding of aviation will occur.  As the primary professionals speaking for local airports, their managers must be viewed as essential in this process.  Thus we intend to provide a special focus to help airport managers work with users and community leaders to promote their airports and make the airport viewed as more than just a transportation facility.  We want that view to attain its reality:  airports are vital cultural, social, and educational resources as well each community's gateway to the world.

The Wolf Foundation could likely fund or stimulate interest in many worthy projects enhancing public understanding of the vital general aviation mode. Since such efforts lie in the fields of communications and media, such projects fit nicely with similar ones devoted to the other program areas presented in this proposal, and would likely prove effective at relatively modest levels of expenditure.

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Last modified: April 17, 2019