David Higgins, Vice President & General Manager, REV Group, Inc. [NYSE: REVG]
Americans are truly blessed to enjoy a level of freedom to fly that hardly any other country in the world can match. I can go to the hangar, climb into a plane, and go almost anywhere in the nation that I desire, without filing a flight plan or speaking to another human being, depending upon the type of airspace through which I plan to fly, and the capabilities of the aircraft. I’m not advocating that approach, merely demonstrating the lack of regulatory burden in pursuing general aviation in America.
General aviation is typically understood to mean other than scheduled air carriers. It is the category of fliers one would equate to everyday citizens, up to and including corporate flight. The US airspace system is designed to ensure safety above all. It is very easy to understand, and use, and offers a comprehensive range of tools and services at little to no additional cost to the general aviation community. Safety is often the first question that arises from the lay person when referring to general aviation, and small airplanes. A look at the statistics reveals that flying is orders of magnitude safer than most other forms of transportation. To be legal to fly, general aviation aircraft must annually meet all the standards of airworthiness to the same specifications as the day they were built. Much more rigorous than automotive standards. Pilots are required to demonstrate proficiency biennially with a certified flight instructor.
I have used my aircraft for both business and pleasure. The range of options this mode of transportation creates is truly noteworthy. For example, the ability to travel in a relatively straight line at speeds well in excess of an automobile reduce my travel times by half, at minimum, over land transportation. When I am required to travel for business, I’ll look at the cost of airfare, and total travel time for a commercial flight including to and from the airport, security processing, showing up in advance of boarding, etc. I’ll compare that to the time and expense required to fly myself. Typically trips of 500 miles or less favor the use of personal aircraft. The ability to fly point to point to smaller general aviation airports, usually much closer to the places where I’m conducting business, is also a time saver.
The act of flying oneself, and others to the destination adds meaning to the phrase that it’s about the journey not just the destination
On the leisure side, being able to access remote destinations, and interact with a unique group of people affiliated with aviation is an experience in and of itself. The act of flying oneself, and others to the destination adds meaning to the phrase that it’s about the journey not just the destination. What might have otherwise been a destination requiring a weekend road trip on crowded roads, or an overnight stay, can turn into a spontaneous same day adventure, with some amazing aerial scenery along the way. Without the traffic. When I lived in the New England region, I could drive to the airport mid-morning, and be dining on lobster for lunch, minutes out of the water, two states away at the tip of Maine, and back home by mid-afternoon. Remote grass airstrips make accessible much of the wild back country of North America that can only be accessed by air. Camping under the wing next to a trout stream, in a remote location with limited cell reception might instill a mild sense of trepidation to some, but to others it is food for the soul. I have met many genuinely interesting and unique individuals at small airports, and back country strips.
The proliferation of, and expanded access to, commercial air travel may have taken some of the romance out of flying as compared to the early days, however, many people still cling to the dream of flight. To be sure, it is not for everyone. It requires both a significant personal time, and financial commitment to obtain a pilot certificate, and to either rent or own an aircraft. The trade off is the ability to enjoy a level of freedom that most of the people in the world will never experience or fully appreciate. General aviation spans most demographics, and income levels. Typically, the faster and farther you want to fly, the higher the expense. For the average middle-class income family there are many aircraft available for purchase for less than the price of a new automobile. Most small airports also offer aircraft for rent at reasonable rates.
Aviation is an endeavor well within the means of many people, not reserved merely for the rich. In this increasingly media saturated virtual world, the ability to experience truly unique, firsthand adventure is becoming difficult. Nearly anyone can fly, if you meet minimum physical requirements.
Go to your local airport. Buy an introductory flight, generally less than one hundred dollars. Decide for yourself, stop dreaming and start living.