Monday, February 16, 2009

Boots on the Ground

It turns out to write about aviation, you should have aviation experiences. Quite frankly, I've had a recent dearth of said experiences and am drawing on new things to attempt to entertain the flying world at large.

Saturday, as part of my airport management class, I went on a tour of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport (yes, I toured an airport on Valentine's Day, but that was not my doing). It really is an amazing place, but it felt devoid of emotion, or at least the grassroots sort of emotion that I'm partial to. It is not there for recreation, but instead for business, and it is a city in its own right, with a fire department, an army of snow removers, and a "Main Street" full of restaurants and stores in the terminal.

I thought of the snow removal and heavy equipment teams. They took pride in their job but they didn't do it because they loved aviation. Their passions and motivations lay elsewhere, perhaps in the inner workings of heavy machinery.

I thought of the firefighters on staff. They enjoyed their jobs, believed in what they were doing, but they did not do it out of love for flying.

I'm not trying to discount the lifestyles, passions, and dreams of the non-flying workers that make the airport operational. They are certainly necessary and integral to the airport's success.

Ah, success. As defined by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), "success" means a satisfactory cash flow. While the MAC is not a profit-earning organization, they do things very thoughtfully, with careful attention to financial outlay and return. Having laid the groundwork for hangars at a nearby GA airport, they have not moved to allow building yet, because they do not yet think it is fiscally responsible, despite numerous requests from aviators to allow building. In short, the MAC, while running some very nice airports, does nothing simply for the good of general aviation. In fact, some might say that they actually hinder it, with their dutiful adherence to stringent security regulations and corporation-style management.

I'm not trying to undermine the MAC's management of the metropolitan airports under its control. From what I've seen, they do an excellent job of maintaining clean and modern airports. However, they do not promote the future of aviation very well on a grassroots level.

But that's because that's not really their job, and they're not in a position to be very good at such a task. MAC makes the airport structure, you make the airport community. MAC's goals need to make sense, yours don't.

You, as an aviation enthusiast, are the "boots on the ground." You are the one that can make an individual difference. While the involvement of large aviation organizations is wonderful and laudable, they cannot influence people like a personal connection or mentor.

Remember, the only fences around airports are the ones which contain us and keep us from sharing our love of flying with others. Even a fenced airport can have an active aviation outreach effort with the dedication and involvement of airport community members. I suppose I just don't want a simple chain-link fence to be the reason someone doesn't get involved in aviation. I know that we, as a global aviation community, have many challenges facing us, but I also know that just one person can make a difference in the life of another.

Don't forget--life doesn't have to make sense. That's why we have hobbies : )


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