Any time you have two or more pilots together these days, it doesn't take long for the conversation to come around to a frank—but also frustrating—discussion about the seemingly long list of societal, regulatory and fiscal challenges we must overcome to ensure a bright future for the General Aviation world. And when negativity is a by-product of these conversations, it serves little purpose and solves no problem.
To move forward down the path to a stronger GA community, we must put away the swords and ask positive questions that will lead to an upward climb in the financial health of this industry.
I have been recruited by this magazine because of the reputation I've built over the last 34 years of my writing career covering the good things about what I call the "aviation family." And we are a family, in every meaning of the word. We laugh together, cry together, and without question, we help each other. Just like family.
Those who have followed my Airplanista Aviation Blog know that I do not run and hide from the serious and sometimes ugly topics in this realm. But there are many places to get the hard news of our aviation day. So I choose instead to present stories to honor individuals and/or groups in our aviation family who are doing big things for the greater good. We all know someone worthy of this kind of public praise.
In the coming months here in Cessna Flyer/Piper Flyer, I will introduce you to some exceptional people doing extraordinary things in my new column, "Affirmative Attitude." While the large aviation advocacy associations are very good at developing big, successful programs like EAA's Young Eagles and AOPA's AV8RS, there are thousands of pilots—some right on your home field—that donate their time, skills and ingenuity to contribute something brilliant to the cause of improving all of the GA world. These are the stories that make me smile, and writing this column is part of my way of giving back. I am just one person hoping to make a small but hopefully significant difference.
If you think you, too, are "just one person" and cannot do anything to move GA's needle, you are very, very wrong. To illustrate the point that every person reading this column has the potential to impact the aviation world in a positive way, allow me to tell you about a program I founded years ago.
In 2001, I was a member of the Central Valley Aviation Association, a social pilot club in Fresno, Calif. with a sole mission of flying out once a month to locate great $100 hamburgers. It was fun, but I thought we should be doing something in the advocacy arena to try and mint a few new pilots in the 16-24 demographic. The plan was to raise some funds and pay for ground school for some of the best and brightest kids we could locate. But, man, did it ever catch fire.
The concept of the program was quite simple: find pilots and flight schools and solicit donations, with every dime used to pay for ground school for the bright future pilots we had found. We knew pilots in the area—whether wealthy or not—who would donate to help launch the aviation career of one very motivated student pilot. What happened next, we did not see coming.
We received enough donations to pay for a handful of ground school tuitions, but we also had one person who was so enthusiastic about the program, she approached both large flight schools in the Fresno area and convinced them to donate a pair of full-ride private pilot scholarships. A third full-ride was created because of the generosity of area pilots who each gave what they could. By simply asking, we succeeded in training a trio of fresh faces, all of whom I assume are still flying today.
This idea for the program came to me one day while enjoying a wonderful solo flight and by enlisting the heft of my fellow club members, we made dreams come true for three new pilots. Yes, it was only three pilots, but it was forward progress, and that is the ultimate goal of everything we do when advocating for GA.
The program I founded is currently dormant, and since moving away from California in 2004, I've chosen not to resurrect it to focus on growing my ad agency. But the program's short life proved that the money exists to pay to train the next generation of aviators. There may come a time when I light that fire again... but for now, it remains proof that the grassroots approach to aviation philanthropy can indeed produce new pilots.
There are an almost unlimited number of things each and every one of us can do to be part of the solution as GA moves into the next decades. The only certainty as 2014 turns into 2024 and beyond is that GA will continue to face challenges from many directions. But aviation has always had challenges, and it is only with a positive attitude that we've overcome these issues when the future looked bleak for GA.
I will continue this discussion in my new column beginning in February, and will hopefully motivate some of this magazine's readers to reach higher in their quest to give back.
To keep this conversation going, I really need your help. Please email me at and pass along the contact info of anyone you know that is doing exceptional work in intriguing ways to develop the GA world of tomorrow. I want to locate those among us who are bringing new ideas to the table, ideas that need to be promoted. There is someone like that on your home field, and the world needs to read how they are making a difference.
The pilot community has volunteerism hard-wired into our souls. We all seem to share identical DNA when it comes to helping kids get excited about flying, working to keep the local airfield open and operational, and lowering the overall costs to fly. How you personally contribute to the growth of GA in the coming years is your choice. Every person can make a difference.
Hiding in silos avoiding the responsibility to help is how we lose; standing up, building consensus, working hands-on to fix what is broken and leading by example...that's how we win.
Dan Pimentel has worked in journalism and graphic design since 1979, and is the president and creative director of Celeste/Daniels Advertising and Design (celestedaniels.com). He's an instrument-rated private pilot and has been writing the Airplanista Aviation Blog (airplanista.com) since 2005. You can find him on Twitter as @Av8rdan. Send questions or comments to .