The Boringness of Bones
Infrastructure has been getting a lot of talk lately, as President Obama looks for a way to get a jobs bill funded -- in fact, just last week he gave a speech about it in Washington. It's not just our roads and bridges that are neglected. "Our air traffic congestion is the worst in the world," he said. Every year, Europe invests twice as much as we do in infrastructure. That can't be good for our economy in the long run.
It's easy to look around and see how we depend on infrastructure every day -- not just roads and airports, but all the stuff we rely on as pilots -- air traffic control, weather data, navigation aids. It's also easy to take these things for granted and not think much about them. They've just always been there, humming along in the background, and it's natural to expect that will always be the case.
In a way that might make sense, in that each of us only has so much attention and energy, and we can't all keep track of everything that's going on all the time, even if we know it might have some impact on us. But luckily, there are people who take on that job for us -- the aviation advocacy groups.
It's equally easy to overlook the work done by these advocates, much of it behind the scenes, in the back rooms of D.C. where few of us care to tread. Here at AVweb, we report frequently on their battles -- working to get funding for ATC upgrades, or protect the rights of pilots, or watch out that GPS signals don't get stomped on. But most pilots probably don't think too much about these things, just as we don't think much about how our roads get plowed or how the bridges get painted.
I know when I was a student pilot I was eager to join the GA groups, just because it was something exclusive to real pilots. I didn't think much about where my dues actually went. Most members of GA groups today I bet think more about getting a magazine, or a discount, or joining a local chapter, than they think about supporting advocates in Washington who'll watch out for our infrastructure.
It's worth keeping in mind that a chunk of those dues go to pay the salaries of folks who've taken on the dirty job of making sure the sausages keep getting made, so the rest of us don't have to think about it. In a way, they are part of the infrastructure of GA, the same way airports and ATC are. It's easy to take those advocates for granted -- as long as they don't go away.