Global attacks on general aviation: freedom in retreat?

As I write this, France is reeling from devastating terrorist attacks on civilians in Paris, and governments throughout the West are under pressure to “do something,” to apprehend any surviving conspirators, and to prevent future attacks. I think it’s likely that French civil liberties will be further constrained as their government tries to find and neutralize terrorist plotters and collaborators.

TFR
An all-too-common sight these days – but why?

As I mulled over the latter point, I thought about the restrictions in American civil liberties that followed the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, particularly the restrictions on general aviation. The restrictions include the virtual elimination of GA flights into Reagan National or within a large area around Washington DC; a constantly shifting pattern of large Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) as high government personnel move around the country; and warrantless stops and searches of GA aircraft by the Customs and Border Patrol.

Then I began to think about the actions of governments at all levels that make personal flight an expensive hassle, starting with dense regulations on aircraft certification, maintenance, repair, and registration; numbing pages of airman regulations; fuel taxes; permanent airspace restrictions; local government harassment of small airports, FBOs, skydiving operations, and aerobatic flights; noise restrictions; and more. Add to this constant pressure on non-commercial airports by tower builders and land developers.

My thoughts turned to the situation of GA in other countries. Some years ago, my wife and I were in The Netherlands visiting her cousins; when one asked what we might want to see, I asked if we could visit a small Dutch airport. The cousin thought for a moment, and said, “I think there is one.” One! Well, there are more, but he only knew of one, and managed to find it, a beautiful, totally unobstructed grass strip. As we drove onto the property, I saw what appeared to be a control tower. We entered the base of the building, finding what had once been a pilot shop, but no one in sight.

A man in the tower cab heard us, and called down to us in Dutch. The cousin responded that he was showing an American pilot the airport. We were invited upstairs, and had a long conversation with the tower operator in English. It turned out that his sole duty was to obtain tail numbers and count takeoffs and landings, so the airmen could be billed by the government for each operation. I did not ask how much an operation cost, but articles I’ve read suggest it might be substantial. Little wonder there were no aircraft movements during the few hours we were on the field in perfect flying weather! It was not clear that the takeoff and landing fees generated came anywhere close to paying the tower operator’s salary and benefits.

I thought also of the young Italian airline pilot I met at a Sport Aviation Association fly-in on Rudy Frasca’s wonderful private airport near Urbana, Illinois, some years ago. This delightful fellow owned an airplane with a few partners, and he complained bitterly about heavy fees and regulations on GA by the Italian government. He said that they had registered their aircraft in Germany, because the German regulations were so much lighter than the Italian! And no one has told me that German regulation of GA is light-handed.

Finally, I thought about where GA flourishes— relatively speaking— and where it does not. It was immediately obvious that there is a correlation between tyrannical government and the absence of personal flight. Russia, China, North Korea, and the Middle Eastern nations come to mind. Only the more-or-less democratic nations have active GA, even if hanging on by a thread: the US and Canada; Australia; Brazil; South Africa; and Western Europe come to mind. But there is great variability among those nations in the tax and regulatory burdens put on GA and the support for aviation infrastructure. Even in the democratic nations, it seems often that governments are doing all they can to strangle GA. In Germany, for example, the $11/gallon for avgas must represent mostly tax. All over, fuel for airplanes is taxed at higher rates than for any other use. Why the special treatment?

Freedom House map 600
Maps of freedom and general aviation activity seem to be related.

When I thought about why GA is distributed so unevenly across the world, and why it is so heavily assaulted by governments at all levels, I wondered if there is something about GA in particular that worries governments. Then it hit me: they don’t like the freedom that flying gives to their citizens. An old friend once wrote to me, “Fear a government that fears its people.” On the other hand, we should respect a government that respects its citizens. So, the more tyrannical and repressive the government, the more they fear their citizens having the freedom of movement afforded by small aircraft; perhaps they fear what might be seen from above by pilots. Maybe they think having the freedom to fly gives airmen bad ideas about freedom in general…

Perhaps we should view freedom of flight as a surrogate for the health of larger individual liberty in a nation, and attacks on GA as attacks on liberty in that broader sense. Perhaps in our efforts to gain support and recognition for personal and small business aircraft ownership and use we should be arguing this point: Free people must have the freedom to fly in what Paul Poberezny often called “the great ocean of air over us.” A recent president claimed that “democracy is on the march worldwide,” but events of the last few decades may suggest otherwise. To the best of my knowledge, Americans have the freest GA system on the globe, but it is ailing and fragile.

As European and American governments struggle to deal with the rise of global terrorism, we must be on guard: GA will be an easy target. Please ponder these things, and let us hear what you think.

30 Comments

  • My observation is that GA gets stomped on because it’s an easy and visible action for government agencies wanting to show that they are “doing something”. All you have to control is a few thousand feet of runway and a few hundred airplanes. The great part is that it doesn’t significantly inconvenience the voting populace so there is no backlash.

    Contrast that to instituting TRR’s (Temporary Road Restrictions) by randomly throwing orange dots on a freeway and posting their location on the internet. If anyone drives over them you have to send out an M-1 tank to enforce it. It’s just too difficult to do that; much easier to close an airport.

  • Freedom is not to be tolerated in most of the world, even today, even in supposedly free nations.

    Many Americans born, raised, and who never left here find it all too easy to take our freedoms for granted. Even in Western European nations with much in common with America culturally and politically, they do not tolerate free speech. I read just this morning that a woman was arrested this weekend in the UK for posting on social media that Muslims were not welcome in her shop, as her reaction to the ISIS terror attacks in Paris. She may be quite mistaken in blaming all Muslims for the acts of a handful of terrorists, and if she actually refused service on the basis of religion or ethnicity, may indeed be illegal (as it is here in the USA), but the notion that someone can be arrested for posting something on social media is just so foreign to us, and so frightening, in Britain of all places! We are probably the only nation in the world where a person cannot be imprisoned for what we say or write – if there are other nations that actually protect free speech, no matter how ugly or pretty it be, I’d like to know!

    Personal aviation, of course, is another one of our freedoms that would be all to easy to lose in sacrifice to some il-defined government “good” of some kind or another. The best way to keep that freedom is to exercise it.

  • Stephen, you make an important point: GA is a tiny activity when compared with, say, motorcycle riding, power boating, or travel by automobile. It’s easy to bash GA for the noise of C-172 overflights, but a harder sell to try forcing the much more numerous riders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to muffle their extraordinarily loud machines. This is why it is so important for everyone concerned with GA to be politically aware and active, to communicate productively with elected officials, and to vote.

  • During my long IFR cross-country flight with instructor by my side, we were vectored out of Fayetteville, NC directly over Pope AFB at a few thousand feet. We both oogled over the rows of C-141, C-5, and fighter/attack aircraft arrayed beneath our feet, while controllers calmly gave our measly 172 vectors onward to the next airport. My instructor looked over to me and declared: ” How great is it that our country respects us and our freedoms so much that a little Cessna can fly over a mighty military base like this?” It was so amazing to absorb that this experience was the exception, not the rule for most of the planet.

    • Mitchel, I’ve had similar experiences flying my C-172 over USAF bases in Oklahoma and a nuclear facility east of Amarillo, TX, while being calmly and pleasantly waved through by military and civilian controllers. And your instructor was right: “How great it is.” However, the reaction to fear of terrorist attacks could well end that privilege with the big “R” over every military facility; that is the kind of creeping and leaping intrusion we need to be alert for.

  • Hunter;

    Very interesting article. Thank you for posting it and raising a new (to me) perspective on GA freedoms. My thoughts are that the reasoning for governments’ restrictive approaches toward recreational or non-commercial flying will widely vary from country to country, and even region to region. There’s no one reason behind it. There are certainly a number of common themes, though, many of which you’ve identified.

    One thing that I think most regulators and politicians understand and take such unfair advantage of is the fact that so many pilots are willing to make such huge sacrifices and investments in order to fly. When I think of what we put up with in terms of expense, labour, training, maintenance and even the quality of some of the aircraft that are available, I’m amazed that so many people actually do fly! Obviously, the desire to leave the ground under our own control is incredibly powerful. As a perfect example, look at the number of young people still willing to go through all they must endure to attain a right seat flying job that still only provides a barely poverty-level paycheck.

    One could wax philosophically about the emotions that draw us to the air, but the politicians and administrators have realized that we will still put up with all or most of the BS, or find a way around it, and keep coming back to the sky.

    I’m a long time Canadian pilot and I’ve flown extensively throughout both our countries. Now, it’s not my intention to begin a contest over who has the biggest, uh, joystick, but my experience indicates that Canada has more GA freedom than does the US, though we can certainly learn a lot from America in some areas. I’m comparing things like controlled airspace, TFRs, MOAs, restricted areas, and government oversight and interference, of which Canada has barely a fraction of what exists stateside. Being the second largest country on earth, with only one tenth of America’s population, we also have an unbelievably large body of uncrowded airspace where we can exercise our flying privileges.

    I’m continually envious, though, of the American FBO system which puts Canada’s FBOs and fuel vendors utterly to shame. Only a few of the many that I’ve patronized in Canada even come close to what American airports offer their pilots. Aviation communities are also more numerous and active in the US than in Canada, possibly due to the larger number of pilots and the overall warmer weather in the US.

    Frankly, I love flying in both countries and feel tremendously fortunate to be able to do so.

    Finally, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to organizations like COPA and AOPA, as well as EAA and especially local flying clubs throughout both countries who do so much to fight for and protect our flying freedoms.

  • Many years ago no one supported space exploration. Simply put, no one understood what exactly there is to gain from floating up in space. with that notion, funding for NASA was non existent. Then, a smart public relations guy figured out that if the public doesn’t KNOW or UNDERSTANDS what NASA / Space travel stands for, the program will never get off the ground (yes.. I had too…). Public relations is the currency in which everything moves in a democracy, and we as an industry have NONE, ZERO!

    I love AirFacts, and I love AOPA, EAA, I am a member in all of them, but as the leading publications of our industry they do a POOR POOR JOB communicating to the non pilots what we are doing here. Want an example? how come there are still people in America who dose not know what Angel Flights stands for? how is that even possible?! great stories, good, helping people, little beautiful kids sitting in small airplanes , how is THAT not showing up in the news every other week? Public relations is the key, Public perception is what makes or breaks an industry.

    Not too long ago I landed at SMO to pickup the kids and as always there are Moms with their young kids coming to watch the airplanes take off and land. I invited one of the Moms to bring her 8 year old son to sit in the cockpit. While the kid was in high heaven, the Mom was oh so excited, so I asked, how frequently do you come here?, every week she said, and how many airplanes did your son sat in?, none she said, this is the first one….

    Shame on all of us. Perception is everything.

    • Stu, you raise good points about freedom of flight in Canada. As your note suggests, I had in mind the entire atmosphere “down here,” including the large (albeit declining) number of GA airports, the FBO system, and generally good treatment by ATC.

    • Liad, excellent points. IMHO, most GA businesses are not good at BUSINESS. Cirrus may be the most successful, but look at what happens at OSH etc. Vendors seldom collect contact information and follow up later with prospects; they reach out to pilots, not the public. At all but a couple of GA-focused grass airports around here, airports put up so many barriers to the general public– in the name of “security”– that a kid on the ramp who wanted to sit in an airplane might end up chatting with the County Sheriff. I agree that, overall, GA does a miserable job of selling itself to the public.

  • Bottom line: Statists want to control freedom of movement any way they can. Making GA as expensive and inconvenient as possible serves those ends.

    And it’s not limited to personal aircraft. The government-supported enthusiasm for electric, autonomous, and ‘shared’ cars is another component of that thinking. Autonomous cars won’t function without the support of — and permission from — the transportation network. If the government suddenly doesn’t want you to go anywhere, they can make that happen with a keystroke. Owe some back taxes? Sorry, your car won’t turn on until you pay up. Want to go to the beach today? Oops, the roads are already too congested, permission denied. Road trip to Florida, maybe? Looks like you used up your mileage quota for the month, please purchase additional miles to proceed. State of emergency? We had to shut down the network for your own safety. Please stay where you are and await further instructions.

    That’s the future.

    Fact is that it’s been the ultimate long-term dream of government busybodies to get people’s movement under control, and now they’re finally getting the tools to do exactly that. They want all of us limited to government-sanctioned transportation, and are trying to make it happen on several different levels. GA will eventually fall under this control also, unless we really start to push back on these regulations.

  • TJP77– Good points. Fortunately, we are a long ways from gov’t-controlled driverless cars being the dominant form of personal transport. And if Indiana is any example, the chance of forcing most folks into mass transit is low, because there isn’t any. That said, the universal tracking capability of ADS-B is sobering, making it easy to imagine clandestine improper use of the tracking. Automotive GPS units also pose interesting ways personal movements can be tracked. Bit by bit, fear of terrorism in the public, and the desire of governments to control things, leads to steady and seemingly irreversible erosion of privacy and civil liberties. There is not enough discussion on when much erosion is too much.

  • As our freedoms tick down in these troubled times, some for the good-some not so, we should think about the simple foundation of our rights giving us innocence until guilt is proven, before we loose everything. Also, the high expense, knowledge and hurdles to obtain flight and of GA are there because we let TMI become a larger part of the necessities of flying, some for the good and safety of all-some to make it unreachable. Ah, progress! At what price? To forgo the best part of it all: The simple freedom of being aloft. This should be a freedom for all who want to achieve and embrace it with care, fondness and excellence, not just those with the deepest pockets.

  • I recall operating Part 91 in one of the green countries on the articles map. The aircraft was registered in that country. I had to record each flight segment, make a carbon copy and submit the aircraft’s flight log annually to their CAA. Each year required a new airworthiness certificate, radio license and more. All aircraft manufacturer service bulletins and the like were treated as ADs. There was no difference when it came to maintenance between a Part 135 and Part 91 aircraft. I am not exaggerating. Mandatory 25, 50 and 100 hour inspections.

    We still have it good in the USA for aviation. Those who bad mouth the FAA have not a clue what it is like elsewhere. Eliminating the Third Class medical for private pilot, if it happens, is an unimaginable action in all of the other nations.

  • I think your right!
    GA, in Brazil, used to be a lot more active. But as the country yawed to strong left wing governments, GA became now almost non-existent.
    Besides exceedingly high taxes, complicated, shifting and confusing regulations, you would hardly find avgas for less than 6,8 dollars/gallon.
    Being an aircraft owner and a private pilot is getting harder here. At the same time, our democracy seems to be fading away.
    On the other hand, as you said, America has the freest GA system in the world. And it is also the “land of freedom”.
    I don’t think it is a coincidence.
    There must be a correlation!
    Thanks for the article!

  • Really enjoyed reading the comments of like minded people guess need to dust off my flight bag and go buy nice airworthy craft. Just love it up there and been awhile as PIC except Sims
    Keep up the good words

  • I wonder if the Government will at some future point use the ADS-B signal to monitor aircraft and bill the owner for time spent flying in US airspace…..?

    • Rod, I’m especially grateful to have such kind words from one of the great writers of aviation articles for some of our best magazines. Thank you!

    • To RJ Neild: Do bears sleep in the woods? Does rain get your hair wet? Do Chinese people eat with chopsticks? The answer to your question is almost certainly, “They’ll try to.” I must say, the rising potential for real-time surveillance of aircraft movements by essentially anyone, for purposes benign or malicious, is orwellian in its implications. Apparently, it cannot be stopped at this point.

  • I began my G/A experiences in Malaya in 1953 during the Communist Insurrection, continued it in the U.K. bought my first Aircraft in British East Africa, when owning an aircraft was the very best way to get around that vast area. Continued on to the U.S.A. both before and after a lengthy spell flying G/A in New Zealand before returning to retirement in the U.S.A. Generally I agree with the writer of this opinion, but of late there has been a tendency for all Liberal and Socialistically inclined Governments to exhibit an attitude that only multi millionaires should quite possibly be permitted to own aircraft, never mind the ‘grass roots’ elements with ancient puddle jumpers and homebuilt aircraft owners. This in itself is a paradox as most modern countries seem to embrace the Socialistic Attitude that all private wealth is bad, excepting for their overlords and politicians. In all now so called sophisticated countries there seems to be the taint of socialistic envy, Seemingly the Governments of all Western Countries are approaching the same conclusions that the more Draconian & Left Wing Countries maintain – that Aviation, like the ownership even of a Sporting 12 gauge shot Gun is best left to the Government and Security Forces itself. Denial of aircraft ownership is to be discouraged, except for the very wealthy or financially famous Movie personalities in the U.S.A. Ordinary people are being taxed and priced out of General Aviation. Probably best time for G/A in U.K. and the U.S.A. was in the 1920’s and 1930’s The G/A pilots of those days became the R.A.F. & U.S.A.A.C. Pilot’s of the 1940’s. and we all know and appreciate what they achieved, since then Socialistic Governments all over the world have envied, and seemingly feared and restricted freedom of the skies for their ordinary average law abiding citizens. From recent restrictions against light aircraft operations and maintenance in Australia I would think that country can now be listed as Anti G/A. The U.K. certainly is with extremely tight control on all light aircraft flights and extremely high fee and airway cost structures, IFR charges, landing fee’s fuel taxes etc. etc. High taxation has always been the way to control or kill any movement that they deem socially unpopular. Unfortunately the world is changing and in these politically uncertain times of mass uncontrolled migrations from undesirable locales – all social controls, including those on General Aviation will only getter tighter. Governments seem to fear freedoms exercised by even their most loyal and productive citizens and they quite possibly regard private aviation as a noxious anti-social activity which is to be denied, except to a favored few.

  • An excellent article that spotlights the wonderful freedoms we enjoy as well as the erosion of these freedoms. Most of the average Americans are unable to travel to third world countries where just surviving is a struggle. Why would they want to? It stinks! No sanitation. And no GA. There is another deeper component of our diminishing freedoms, a curveball that I’d like to throw into the discussion. That of the slow genetic modification happening to our citizens. Here’s my BS theory: The founders of our nation were very risk tolerant adventurous individuals. They had to be to get on a leaky tub of a boat and be blown over here knowing that many would not survive the trip. Their children would have a high percentage of adventurous predispositions as well. But as time has passed the percentage of non-adventurous citizens has grown. When the East became crowded, the adventurous moved west. Who goes to war willingly, the adventurous. So 300 years later, roughly the longest length historically that a democracy lasts, there is a tug of war at the voting polls over individual freedoms and what’s best for the herd. While we are derelict in our promotional duties for not encouraging those that do make it to the airport fence, how many times have we chatted with people at parties that steadfastly refuse to get near a small plane due to their fear? This trend covers many facets of our society: gun control, political correctness, and gender confusion. So the small sliver of GA is only a priority to us 700,000 pilots. Fortunately many of our elected representatives are high energy adventurous souls who also love to fly. Or we’d probably be paying for each operation already.

  • At last, somebody gets it and has the courage to publish the sad truth!

    Thank you, Dr. Heath, for exercising the Liberty you (still) have to speak what many already realize (and others will discover only after it’s too late).

    For anyone interested in understanding how a Western democratic society becomes totalitarian, watch the movie (based on the graphic novel of the same title), “V for Vendetta”. Ironically, the movie is set in modern-day (near-future) Great Britain.

  • Kudos to Dr. Heath and the intelligent responses his article generated. There is one point that I think so far everyone has missed. When arguing the tax burden on fuel as a means for governments to limit personal freedom of movement on the ground, water or in the air you forgot to mention the punitive portion of taxes allocated to the new religion of environmentalism and it’s spin off cult, global warning. I considered myself a true environmentalist long before it was the purview of the elites. Global warming is a fact but I wonder just where this sin tax cash is flowing. Politicians seem vague on what this so called carbon tax is spent on. I suspect most of it goes to general revenue. Some people are suggesting it is nothing more than a global redistribution of wealth. Our children are being socially engineered under our very noses into thinking that things that our generation took for granted like jumping in the family jalopy for week-end jaunt is a sin for which we now should be severely punished. It is not hard to imagine what toll they will level on the extravagance of the general aviation community for just wanting to, “slip the surly bonds of earth”, on a week end for a few precious minutes of freedom aloft. I’m left to wonder if John Gillespie Magee had second sight when he coined that poetic phrase. Surly couldn’t be a better choice of words.

  • You are spot on, Hunter. However, take care not to consider any country in Europe as being anywhere near the same league as the USA as far as the freedom to fly (or any other freedom, for that matter).

    I’ve lived in Europe for 7 years now (before that I lived in the USA). I brought my Bonanza V35B over to Europe for 6 of those years. The destinations have been fantastic! However, where in the US it was typically comparable in cost to the airlines for two people (and ahead for 3-4), in Europe it can never be cost-competitive. In the US it was without exception more convenient, thanks to the vast number of GA airports; in Europe, hours of preflight preparation are required, to flight plan (airways only–with very cryptic rules, nearly impossible to find a route without computer help), to research the AIP’s to find whether prior permission is required and whether there are any special flight rules, and even whether or not they have Avgas (I’d estimate that only 25% of European airports have avgas!), and now with Schengen breaking down, immigration and customs rules have to be followed. At most airports, in addition to on average I’d say $60 of landing/parking/other airport fees, there is also usually roughly $100 of “handling” charges (paying someone to fill out paperwork and drive you around the airport). On top of that, Avgas is 3-4x as expensive as in the US (thanks to taxes, as you say). Most airports are not open at night. It is difficult to find maintenance for a N-registered airplane (and the requirements are hopeless for an EASA-registered plane). I’ve also flown by Bonanza in Africa–Europe is much closer in rules and regulations and expense to Africa than to the USA (Botswana of all places is closest to the USA experience of anywhere I’ve flown outside of the USA and Canada!).

    In summary: in America, you fly by right; in Europe, you absolutely are flying by permission.

    I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I feel fortunate to have been able to fly to so many fantastic destinations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, but I was smiling ear to ear a month ago when I flew into the first US airport after finally ferrying back to the US. The experience is incomparable. (My European pilot friends have my utmost respect for their dedication to flying in the face of their regulations.)

    Don’t let it go! Fight any encroachment into our right to fly. It’s a huge threat.

  • While I agree with many of the comments made both by Dr. Heath, Mr. Westphal, and others, I can’t help but question the graphic used to depict “free” nations and the source of said image. I’m an American citizen, living in the United Arab Emirates and I “freely” fly light GA aircraft for recreation in a manner that is consistent with most operations I would perform back in the United States. Yes, many things are different… from the radio phraseology to the price of fuel but the law of averages proves flying here has more similarities than differences when compared to flying in the United States.

  • Thanks to all the commenters, who have each added importantly to this discussion. A few additional thoughts: first, with regard to which nations are “free-er” in terms of GA, in a short article I am painting with a generalizing brush; and note that I didn’t create the map! Yes, things are much worse in Europe (and getting worse, I gather). I tried to address the variations on GA restriction across nations with this statement: “But there is great variability among those nations in the tax and regulatory burdens put on GA and the support for aviation infrastructure. Even in the democratic nations, it seems often that governments are doing all they can to strangle GA.” I agree that an aggressive, unselective environmentalist movement may single out GA for negative attention. Perhaps someday for fun flying, the electric motor with be the power of choice. I also agree that there is a broad trend toward risk-aversiveness in Western nations. How many of you had a Gilbert chemistry set as a kid? I did, and it was great fun and educational… but it was possible to make things burn or blow up! Just try to find a chemistry set now; it might contain salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar. A government mindset of protecting the public from its own “risky” desires could threaten GA as well as riding motorcycles, downhill skiing, or, well, drinking alcohol. Finally, it’s clear that taxes and fees provide strong measures for discouraging or de facto prohibiting things the government disapproves of. The adverse effects of numerous, complex, and high taxes and fees is doing a sobering job of same in the UK, Europe, and elsewhere. Vigilance and political acumen will be needed to keep American GA from that fate. I must remind myself that I am “preaching to the Pope,” and so are you, dear readers. We must preach about the needs of GA to the media, lawmakers, our friends and relatives, and any other influential people we can. Whether one agrees with all the policies and actions of the GA alphabet groups– most notably AOPA and EAA– dues paid to them and donations to their foundations is money well spent.

  • I’m going to provide a few random experiences or thoughts, that won’t settle anything. I’ve followed the aviation world for at least 75 years. I remember that England/Britain had one of the best airplane industries in the world say till just after WWII. Then it disintegrated – I concluded it was because the country was small, they had a great rail transportation system, and they were no longer an important world economy, so they couldn’t very well export their industry’s product – and the product wasn’t needed there in England.
    The U.S. had until 1978 an economically regulated, and thus limited, airline industry – and from the 50’s the GA industry and activity flourished here – until a couple of years after airline deregulation. Then we experienced the airline industry exploiting, in competition, buses of the air (Airbus was well named.). Airline travel was not as pleasant as it used to be, but sure was relatively less expensive. The airways were deferred to that mode that carried the most people, the airlines. You can’t argue with that, though maybe the government should have put resources into making the system more effective.
    In the 90’s I was fortunate to join a group visiting communist Cuba, with Cuban government approval – and controlled agenda. Our bus went by an airfield close by the hotel we were assigned to, and I like to brag about the foreign countries I have flown in. I went to the front desk and asked the clerk was it likely I could rent an airplane there and could I get a van ride to the airport. His response was gales of laughter and “This is Cuba!”. I went to lunch.
    If you look at the products of the aviation industry in Russia, and China, but it is changing some, they are primarily military airplanes, and some airliners – all designed and flown under government control.
    What does all this say? Yes controlling governments control civilian flight. But in other countries look at the size of the country and the state of transportation alternatives to GA.

  • I forgot to include a couple of personal flying incidents. In the 50’s I was delivering a 170 to New Orleans. I was all alone, in a little airplane, in good weather and getting great service from the weather and ATC agencies. I thought “How great, and maybe unfair, that I’m getting all this (almost free) assistance, just by asking”.
    Then in the 90’s I was flying an (probably a little Cessna) airplane on business from Wichita municipal to Tulsa. I was directed to fly due West (away from Tulsa) and await further instructions. After twenty minutes going away from my destination I called in and they said “oh, we forgot you.” I would have been halfway to Tulsa and was paying for a rented airplane. I switched my flying to little uncontrolled Augusta airport.

  • I started flying in 1966 and flew every where in the country up until 911. I thought boy “are the airlines in trouble now”, was I ever wrong and surprised when we were grounded and enhanced class B airspace was stopping us from the freedom we always had.
    The school I was attending to get my A&P for my retirement work,went out of business because they couldn’t continue flight training.
    Later we had a Chicago Mayor and city workers destroy an airport like a bunch of terrorists, but the public and government didn’t care.
    Gas prices tripled and I am now renting the same 182 for over twice the price I was before 911.
    These Government agencies have lost all credibility and I agree they are trying to get rid of citizen pilots and most freedoms in the USA
    .
    We will never be as free and we once were.

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