LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I am responding to Charles Spence’s request for comments about a name for GA that describes how we use our airplanes without separating the reasons for flight (Is there a better name than general aviation?). At first glance this request sounds like an oxymoron — a self-contradictory idea. On closer examination, it seems you are asking what we do without addressing why we do it.
The reason of why we fly is more important than the details of what kind of flights we take.
Commercial aviation (any flight involving payment of money to either the airplane owner or pilot) naturally has huge differences from recreational aviation. Commercial aviation always comes with a schedule, even if the flight itself doesn’t have a regular recurring schedule like airlines do. Even if the schedule is only a need to make a certain meeting or event at a distant location, it still overrides all other characteristics of the flight. When a pilot rents a plane (a commercial transaction) to fly somewhere he always has an implied schedule to return the plane to its operator. It is these schedules that produce much of the risk-enhancing characteristics of flying, such as get-home-itis, scud running, and IFR flights in marginal weather or solid IMC.
Recreational aviation is done for the enjoyment of flight. It might involve long trips or just a few trips around the patch. What it doesn’t involve is schedules. The recreational pilot can wait for ideal weather and personal fitness for flight. If this means a trip takes a few days longer than originally planned, then so be it.
I don’t think it would be politically wise to differentiate commercial flights from recreational flights. Even though the difference is like night and day, I’m afraid the liberal political powers would jump all over recreational flight as something only available to rich bankers from Wall Street who are supported by government bailouts.
You could try to differentiate between fair-weather, minimal-risk flights as opposed to the marginal weather, schedule-oriented (time pressured) ones. Alas, this also seems to have negative connotations for either one or both kinds of flights.
I guess my conclusion is the milk-toast name of general aviation may be the best we have. It is not exciting, but it doesn’t seem to bring any negative excitement along for the ride either.
PAUL MULWITZ, Camas, Wash.