Paul's pick this month is his "Homebuilder's Corner" column from the November 1970 issue of Sport Aviation.
Sport Aviation, "The Sleeping Giant"
Have you ever considered how small our Federal Aviation Administration would be if it only had to contend with the supervision and operation of air transportation? Have you ever considered how few employees the government would need if sport aviation were out of the picture? Have those who work for government in the many branches of our FAA, our weather service, our controllers ever considered what the impact would be on their livelihoods if there were no sport aviation? Have you, the private aircraft owner, the pilot, the mechanic, the fixed-base operator, and those in associated positions ever considered your position without sport aviation? You, the manufacturer of those little single- and twin-engine planes, how about you?
What is Sport Aviation?
To many it is EAA, its magazine, its homebuilts, antiques, surplus military aircraft, and fly-ins. But is this really all there is to sport aviation? Or have we been a bit naive, have we been too restrictive in our outlook, have we been honest with ourselves as to what we are all about? Over the years names of many categories of aviation have been tossed about, each seeking its identity - “general aviation,” “private pilot,” “corporate aviation,” “air taxi,” “airline,” “executive aviation,” to name a few. But, truthfully, if we review the situation, we can establish but three categories - military aviation, air transportation, and sport aviation. Military aviation is not questionable and presents a clear image. Air transportation comes in various sizes and shapes from the largest of airline jets to the smallest of propeller-driven aircraft whose sole purpose is to provide transportation. Sport aviation aircraft come in various sizes, shapes, and prices and are used for fun and pleasure.
Many call them the “general aviation fleet,” a term I feel is a bit misleading and one not easily understood by your neighbor. In fact, if you ask him or her - as we have quite often done - you would be surprised at the answers you will receive - quite “general” indeed! But you don’t find much confusion about the term “sport.” It is something your neighbor (and the general public), whose support we need, is familiar with and understands. It is easy for him to comprehend your flying activities when they are compared to the weekend and vacation use of his own private automobile, the recreational use of his boat, his snowmobile, or motorcycle. It is also easy for him to understand why we expect the government to help finance our small airports without imposing special taxes upon us when we remind him that our taxes similarly subsidize his use of the highways, waterways, snowmobile trails, sports stadiums, etc. A good way to clinch your arguments for support of sport aviation is to inform your neighbor that the average general aviation airport is no more than a half or three-quarters of a mile of road.
The problems of today’s aviation enthusiast are a bit different than those of five or 10 years ago. The homebuilder and the antiquer - who make sport aviation colorful and seem more purposeful - are in the same boat as their fellow sport aviation buffs owning a Luscombe, Beech Bonanza, Cessna 310, or Piper Aztec. All wonder, “Where can I base my aircraft?” All detest new taxes, restrictive local, state, and federal laws, and all sometimes wonder if it’s really worth it.
It is apparent that sport aviation is in need of a great unification, both on the local, state, and national level if it is to survive and if it is to grow. It has been proven to be pure folly to expect the president of a national organization to be able to influence elected officials other than the ones from his own home area, thus it falls to the individual member and the local chapters to bring the issues to the attention of their elected officials and to make known their positions. Headquarters serves as a source of direction and information.