Thoughts from the Chair

Just when I thought this was going to be a lame duck tenure, the Winter Quarterly Southwest Section meeting has lit the fires and the juice is flowing. I’ve re-upped for another 6 months as chair and there are lots we can do in that time.

It seems like the prevailing challenges and winds of opinion in the aviation community are scarcity of new pilots, retention of current pilots and the slump in general aviation. All the talking heads from AOPA to the FAA and even our own 99s are stirring the pot to get us thinking and acting on the future of general aviation. It’s a good thing in a way. The last twenty years saw the boomers with more time and money on their hands to invest in new challenges. The Korean/WWII boys were still out there as a voice of well earned seniority and respect. We’re now in the doldrums of tough economic times and a younger generation that has no aviation flame to kindle.

So how do we do it? What stirred our imaginations to take the first step towards aviation? Who were our role models that made the impossible become second nature? This whole time line of connections has given me a greater respect for all those nudges and voices of support that made my aviation life bloom. How can we become those beacons to light the way for the new generation of aviation enthusiasm?

Never before has it been this affordable to get into a flying machine. Pre-owned (used) aircraft prices have slumped to ridiculous lows. Yes, gas prices are bubbling up again. But compared to auto fuels we haven’t seen that level of inflation. The military is doing a good job of training pilots and putting them to the test for commercial aviation. Yet it will have to come from our own ranks, our backyards, our influence to seed the beds of general aviation.

The Southwest Quarterly meeting was all about ideas and actions that we can make happen for local, future pilots. Every year as chair I’ve looked for some kind of theme to hang my hat on. This notion seems to be our imperative. Each one of us came to our wings from a different direction. It’s a path that new pilots can retrace. The challenge is thrown down. Let each one of us bring a woman to our door of aviation.

Nuts and bolts… We have an extensive network of connections among us. At work do you ever suggest taking someone out to the airport? When you’re leaning on a fence post talking to neighbors do you ever offer to take them flying? Do your daughters, granddaughters belong to any groups (soccer, girl scouts) where we could give them a tour of the airport? Is anyone involved in math and science classes where we can tie in navigating and aviation into their studies?

Last year we had a ‘Women on Wing’ day at Petaluma airport’s display day. Schelville, Gnoss, Smith and Sonoma Sky Park all have similar events. We can set up a booth, shake hands and get the curiosity flowing. CAP has women cadets that we can mentor and help with scholarships. The newspapers always have slow days and are looking for public interest stories. Nothing like smiling faces and good stories to make the readership happy. It’s a positive momentum, an engine of enthusiasm that we, each of us, can drive. Like moving any heavy object, it will take some initial organization energy to get things rolling. Once the portable booth is built, once our pamphlets are created and printed, we can hit the pavement flying.

We, like our nation, are not to sit quietly and ask why. Rather it is time to stand and ask when and where.

Our Marin County 99s Winter Meeting will be the perfect time to trot out the plan. Try to carve out 3 or 4 hours to attend and see where you can fit into this goal. Bring your daughters. Honestly it won’t take much of an investment if we all jump in. Let each of us bring an idea to the table to share. We’ll leave full and satisfied; happy bellies, charged minds with goodies and plans.

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