Monday, November 26, 2012

The Model for a Family Friendly Airport

Word on the street and according to Robert Goyer for Flying is that for General Aviation to be viable we need to increase the number of pilots, make flying affordable and create well paying jobs. For now let us focus on the first step - increasing our numbers.

Pilots talk about the $100 burger and often coax a friend or two to come along for the flight, all in the effort to initiate a potential pilot into the world of general aviation. The problem as pointed out by Jamie Beckett in The lure of the $10 hamburger is that although the gesture is good some people get turned away from little airplanes after their first flight becomes a "less than optimal experience".

Van Nuys Model Airport Image by Google
Mr. Beckett suggested a $10 burger where the flight is excluded but the meal is enjoyed on the airport air the sounds and smells of piston engines can be enjoyed from a safe distance which in time would lead to education and eventually a productive first flight.

This had me to thinking why not bring entire families out to the airport? Airport authorities should create an environment where the general public is welcome to experience the sights, the sounds, and the smells that make up General Aviation in a family-friendly setting.

One airport is light-years ahead in this respect. The award goes to Van Nuys Airport which has an on-site playground - a model airport - complete with ride-on toy airplanes for young children. With such an installation the cost to bring an entire family in the door is just a weekend trip to the park and viola! mom, dad and the kids all get the experience and dreams are born.

Certainly once people are attracted to the location the opportunity would be taken to educate the public on the benefits that the airport brings to the local community and economy. This would not only provide new pilots but would also create better neighbors on both sides of the airport fence.