Opinion: Its Time For A “Better Image Campaign”
Opinion Editorial written by Jason J. Baker — Its been a tough summer dear friends and readers. I’ve enjoyed a long and warm summer fairly absent from the aviation journalism world, which I once loved and cherished. Thanks to Wipaire’s killed sponsorship the decision to stop trying to travel to events at my own dime came as a logical reaction. Having to scale down my efforts was another – I have a family to feed. A few thousand dollars for event related travel are really mission impossible, just to entertain my fellow seaplane nuts with a daily news article. Not getting much meaningful financial support from those we try to promote makes for feeling less responsible for belly-flopping the very last daily news-source our industry didn’t seem to want and could not deal with. I’m not dead yet, though…
Being Cool And Facebook Likes Are Not Enough
2019 has been a very frustrating year for this magazine, but more so because of a number of accidents and incidents, which have lastingly damaged our industry in terms of how the public perceives us. Seaplane accidents have morphed into a weekly topic in the nightly news. We’re smack in the focus and morphing closer to being classified as an extremely dangerous activity. Even from within the aviation news circus, our industry experiences highly questionable coverage, from rather repugnant people who claim to be general aviation’s last standing bastion of common sense. The overbearing sentiment remains: For Joe Common off the street, we are Aliens from a different world with our flying things. How we position ourselves in public, influences those who have never heard of Bernoulli and in influences them in no positive way, friends.
Countless Examples For Increasing Alienation
WXYZ Detroit, interviewed and quoted an individual named Tristan Crimmins on the latest “Seaplane Crashes Into Boat” article. We should take a moment to pause and try to explain what may have gotten us into this situation. Then I’d suggest taking another minute or two, to compile a list of 5 Bullet-points, which in your opinion need to happen, so that coverage like this becomes a part of our dark past, preferably BEFORE our activity gets prohibited:
As a boater, Crimmins said low flying seaplanes are often a concern on Upper Straits Lake. He said in the past he’s even been nervous towing people behind the boat. “I don’t know if they’re trying to impress people, I don’t know what they’re doing. But when they’re touching down and trying to cause some kind of cool show, it’s all fun and games until something like that happens,” he said.
We’re Shredding Our Own Defense Arguments
I was once young and gullible, otherwise I would have never joined certain associations as a volunteer and stayed on my own. For nearly a decade, many others and myself have preached from the rooftops that accidents with boats are basically non-existent. I referred to Lake Hood, I referred to the folks up in Washington or Canada who fly in between boats and yachts without ever causing a single issue. Even here in Europe (at least those 2-3 people who care enough to still try to open water for seaplanes) argue in defense of seaplanes, because seaplanes don’t kill Orcas or breaching whales and most certainly, we don’t smack Jet-ski drivers off their vehicles or behead snorkeling little children. Last but not least, we don’t EVER slam into boats! Never!!! Only hilariously stupid people would ever think that such a thing could even happen! Then came 2019.
We Need To Rethink Training & Certification Processes
There, I wrote it! My public stoning will take place on 8/27/2019 at 11AM right behind the church in my hometown. Stop asking for directions, find out how to get here yourself. I will not take this statement down, I will not apologize to the hundreds of seaplane instructors and examiners who honestly fight tooth to nail everyday to produce the best possible seaplane pilots out there and I will not justify my statement to the countless accident free seaplane pilots who try their dearest to lead by example with everything they do. Why not? Because exactly these people won’t be offended by what I write and frankly, I don’t give a hoot about those who will.
Its not OK to tell Joe Blow off the street that one can learn to fly in two weeks in perfect weather and then go out and pretend to be Gods gift to aviation. Its not OK to skip parts of the training curriculum or pencil-whip tasks from the Practical Test Standards. Its not OK to force examiners with decades of experience to refrain from digging deeper during an oral or practical test – if just to send the applicant home for some further refinement.
Its not OK to give examiners and flight instructors NO USEFUL TOOLS to prevent certain character flaws from entering the cockpit. Its not OK to dumb this activity down to the lowest common denominator and expect decreasing accident numbers. Its not OK to remain silent and its definitely not OK to try and be popular by pretending that the industry isn’t in dire straits. We’ve got a truckload of problems to fix and mark these words:
NONE of them will be fixed on Facebook or by pushing a mindless Like button!
We Need Young Aviators & Newcomers
Our tiny industry branch – like the rest of General Aviation – isn’t immune to what is regarded as the pilot shortage. Sure, there will always be millionaires and billionaires who are looking for the next check-mark on their pilot-hero resume and there will be the 6 hour seaplane courses that can be attained during a sunny weekend in crazy southern states. I believe we need to differentiate between the one hit wonders and the long distance runners and make sure the hot air-bags stay away as far as possible from airplane ownership and seaplanes in general.
Manufacturers need to put much more emphasis on teaching to higher standards and requiring a minimum of flight time under supervision prior to selling an aircraft to any individual. We know from experience that 10.000 hour pilots are just as prone to have mishaps and accidents, the only thing differentiating the two groups is the hair-color. We do not need young aviators and newcomers at all cost, folks! Our activity takes money, effort, skill, money, some more money, money and hopefully some judgement and experience. We need calm, organized, levelheaded, reasonable people, who don’t view aircraft and especially seaplanes as an ego or penis- extension.
We can elect to raise the bar, or watch it being put out of reach by angry citizens like the one quoted above. We also need a more effective representation on the regulatory and advocacy front. A luxury magazine subscription from the Sunshine State with a fancy decal isn’t going to rock it!
Scientific Research Isn’t Required For Conclusions
- Lets pretend that a weight and balance is mandatory prior to flight…
- Lets pretend that using a checklist is required for safe aircraft operation…
- Lets pretend that gear down accidents are completely and entirely preventable…
- Lets pretend that running out of fuel is inexcusable in today’s day and age…
- Lets pretend that saying NO to certain conditions and weather is very simple and easy…
- Lets pretend that aeronautical decision making (ADM) is a teachable subject…
- Lets pretend that the whole industry suffers from each and every accident, everywhere…
- Last but not least – lets pretend that saying no takes a second, being dead takes a lifetime!
Disclaimer: How does one write an article like this, without dinging people who have had accidents they feel sorry and sad for? Short answer: I can’t. If you can, write it! As a “journalistic writer” I am held to a standard of remaining unbiased in my normal news coverage and writings. But I care for the industry that has occupied my life since 2008 and I think that writing open and honest words, while inconvenient, may resonate with a few who haven’t enslaved completely to the beauty of a 2 second look & like on Facebook.
None Of This Is A Fresh Or New Problem
We have problems and our industry reacts the way it has always reacted to its problems. We try to silence inconvenient subjects away, we try to sit problems out and weather storms by sitting on our hands, while letting uninvolved and rather incompetent people rule. We are completely alienated from those we ask to tolerate our activity and we have a invisible, shameless, nasty and low integrity enemy in each and every writer-ling journalist, looking for that next click-bait news article. By and large, I believe we need a international Image campaign and we need to return to our roots in how we train and certify pilots.
Most importantly, we need to get our rear ends out of the hot spotlight of the nightly news. We need to do this YESTERDAY! The consequences of 2019 will not be visible in 2020 or even 2021, even smart citizens need time to process and put the tools against us into their sheds. May god help us when that’s done and the very tools and arguments we handed them, will be used against us.
I may be done and just another retired- from- aviation- burned-out dinosaur, unaffected by all of this by then, but chances are, this website will still be around, with this damn “told you so” article in it. When will we act, if not now… and who will act, if not us? Read, think, mull, huff or puff – or do what most others do – leave a useless like on our Facebook page without even reading the article. Please don’t write me any insulting emails, do it out in the open and leave a comment here. – It just is what it is and shooting the messenger won’t do a thing.
Jason Baker works as a freelance writer and marketing/ advertising and public relations consultant. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificates. Jason is the owner & managing editor of Seaplanemagazine.com. For more information about consulting services offered, click on Consulting & Services. Advertising spots for 2019 are no longer available. If your company wishes to appear here in 2020, the time to get in touch is now.