We are a proud group. We wear shirts and hats from AOPA and Sporty’s. The first thing we manage to talk about in any group is how we love being a pilot and showing pictures of our latest airplanes. “Pictures of my kids? No, but have you seen pictures of my last flight?” We should be proud and sharing our love of all things aviation is a great thing. The only problem is when we share accidents and near-misses. Sometimes we scare the public, our friends, and families. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh you’re a pilot? Little airplanes are dangerous…” Why do so many people dislike and fear us? We, aviation’s biggest fans, are telling them how dangerous we are everyday on Facebook.
Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen posts about airplane accidents. How many times have you commented and shared those same posts? Why do we share and post the very worst and scariest part of GA? I think we forget that most of the people that read our Facebook posts are not pilots. Accidents and near misses are interesting and educational to us. Reading about accidents is great to learn from the mistakes of others. Sharing them privately by email or in safety classes is a good thing. Sharing them on public social media, where most people don’t understand, only continues and grows the public fear of GA. Every time we share a negative story on social media we just keep convincing people to be afraid of “little planes”.
How can we turn around the public’s fear and confusion about GA? Let’s all agree, and get other pilots we know, to take the three-item Facebook pilot pledge. The three items are simple: Don’t share bad news, share only good news and share the beauty we see.
The first item is the most important. We must all agree to not post, share, re-share and tweet accident stories and aviation problems. Think about it from a sales perspective. Let’s pretend you sell cars. How many stories about recalls, accidents, and people being killed in your car would you advertise? How hard would you try to scare people away from your brand? We are all salespeople for general aviation and by sharing the few, and worst, stories are we only scare more people about flying.
The second item goes back to sales. Instead of telling people how dangerous airplanes are, let’s sell the benefits instead. Would more people like “little airplanes” and “little airports” if we only shared stories of Young Eagles, PilotsNPaws, and Angel Flights? How many people in Santa Monica, CA that want to close the airport would change their mind if their kids went on a Young Eagles flight? How many would defend and try to save the airport if they knew we flew children with cancer for free to get treatment? Every day GA does amazing things that most people will never hear about. We can change this. If we can get 50,000 pilots to post or share just one or inspiring aviation story every week, we can generate 260,000 free advertising impressions!
The third and easiest thing to do is post your flying pictures. Come on, I know you take at least thirty pictures every time you fly. Share how beautiful the views from a “small airplane” are. You should be proud of how hard you worked to fly. Don’t forget to share your accomplishments. Every time you complete a flight review, attend a safety class, solo, get a new rating or, even just fly a new plane, post it!. Compare the two posts above. Decide which one will make people want to fly and which one will make more people want to close local airports. We all want more pilots and more people who love aviation. Changes to the medical requirements will not save General Aviation. Changing the public perception from fear and ignorance to loving GA can.
Please print this article and sign the pledge below. Please share copies with every flight school and pilot group you know. What inspiring stories and pictures will you share this month? Let me know in the comments and as always, Fly Safe!
The Pilot’s Facebook to Save General Aviation
I, ____________________________,(pilot’s name) pledge to help save General Aviation, small airports, and my right to fly by promising to follow three rules on Facebook and social media.
- I will not post or share accidents and other scary stories that will hurt what people think of GA.
- I will share at least once per week an inspiring story of how GA pilots have helped the community, like animal rescue, volunteer medical flights or, Young Eagles kids.
- I will keep posting pictures of amazing views, sunsets, and pictures of how much I love flying.
By coming together I will be a part of making people understand and like “small airplanes” as much as we all do.
About the author:
Gary D Reeves, ATP, Master CFI, CFII,MEI has been teaching for over ten years and has over 6000 hours including turboprop experience. He is the 2016 FAA Instructor of the Year for the SW Region(CA, AZ, NV, HI). As a national expert in IFR Training, Garmin Avionics, iPad use, Mountain Flying and aviation safety he is a lead rep for the FAA Safety team and founded the volunteer group PilotSafety.org If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please visit www.PilotSafety.org, or contact him directly at GaryR@pilotsafety.org.