Forget Gas Prices, Stupidity Is Killing GA
These days, anyone who maintains the slightest notion of actual enthusiastic involvement in general aviation needs, above all else, an elevated appreciation of the absurd. Like a connoisseur of fine wine or a collector of vintage European cars, the GA enthusiast has to have a refined, educated taste for stupidity in all of its colorful variety. That this is so is what will finally drive a stake through the heart of flying little airplanes, not high gas prices or user fees.
What could possibly cause me to sink to this level of cynicism? Here's what: As do many airports, ours (Venice Municipal) has a security gate with access via a magnetic security card. So far so good. The first rule—and it's a stupid one—is that you pass through the gate, stop on the other side and wait for it to close. Some people do this, some do it sort of halfway and some don't do it at all. (I'm in the halfway group, I keep the gate in view while I drive away.) The theory is that the terrorist is concealed in the bushes and will dart through the gate when it's open. By waiting, you assure that this doesn't happen. As I said, stupid rule.
The other day, I pulled through the gate and right behind comes another owner in a pickup. I don't know him personally, but I know him on sight and I know his vehicle. He has an airplane hangared a couple of rows from ours. He waves, I see his magnetic card coming out and off I go. A hundred yards later, I'm confronted by the one of the airport workers who waves me aside.
"You hafta let the gate close before you drive off," says he.
"But the guy behind me had his card out. He's in the next hangar row from me," I answer.
"Doesn't matter. You hafta wait. No tailgating allowed," he replies, and drives off.
Now this is best described as multiple, cascading runaway stupidity. First, anyone waiting for the gate to close has committed such a futile act as to not be worth the time or gasoline it takes to do it. Actively requiring the guy behind you to repeat same by blocking him in and then having someone actually take the time to spank you for refusing to play only compounds the idiocy.
Later that day, when we went to the airport café, it got even more absurd. We have a very good eatery on the field—one of the best in Florida. It has an entry door right on the ramp—or at least it used to. The door is still there, but there's a sign on it that forces you to walk about 150 feet through the main entrance of the new FBO lobby. Well, no big deal, I guess. Everyone should walk more. But the irritating kicker is that when you walk through the FBO door, you have to sign in. Then you sign out when you walk back out to your airplane on the ramp. Again, these are acts that have zero benefit. The supposed security isn't worth the value of the ink in the pens nor the effort of the deskwatcher to remind people to do it. These are pointless acts.
Yet we do them. And not only do we do them, we continue to accept more such absurdities in the name of security. Why? We do them purely for appearances, so that we can mollify the anti-airport crowd and show that we actually are serious about this terrorist threat. And we do them because certain of our elected officials retain their grasp on power by peddling the politics of fear and paranoia.
If this sort of nonsense escalates, I don't know how much more it the GA industry will tolerate. All things reach a tipping point and such inconsequential absurdities as these add up to the point, at least for me, that it's just not worth it to jolly along. Minor erosion in our ranks will evolve into wholesale desertion.
I will freely admit that on the scale of irritability over little things, I'm in the 90th percentile. And I know there are those who will say waiting for a gate to close is a small price to pay for the freedom of flight. My reaction to that is this: Screw that. If you own an airplane at a non-towered country airport, you ought to be able to drive your car to it, unmolested by idiots who make up pointless rules and then spend their useless days enforcing them.
Am I wrong here?