The GA Power Collective: Where do we go from here?

1:15 PM

Just a few of the #avgeeks who wore the official event
shirt at #Oshbash to show their support for the idea of creating
a GA Power Collective. (photo Neil Reagan)
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

This year's edition of my Oshbash social meetup is history, and from all accounts I have heard, the event was receiving positive reviews. After months of planning, the execution of the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion went off without any really obvious hitches other than some bandwidth and audio issues with the live stream, and from comments I heard post-event, everyone enjoyed the show.

What I set out to do was put together a panel to begin a conversation about growing the pilot population to 1,000,000 pilots, without a timetable in mind. To get there, I suggested that the major aviation associations should consider joining forces to tackle the industry's epidemic growth problem together. I purposely left the gate leading down that path open because I wanted the buy-in to this theory to come from the panel and not from me. As moderator, my job was to ask the questions that would spark that conversation.

A full house of about 100 people fill the Press Tent and some of the outside Press Hospitality area, while people not at Oshkosh tuned into the Other People's Airplanes live stream. The video crew did a stellar job of setting the stream up, installing a multi-cam system and even a small Jib camera crane. David Allen created very professional "bottom third" titles for each panelist and myself, along with a very cool pre-roll slide show that the @FlyOPA broadcast on the stream pre-event. But due to some unforeseen networking issues, reports came in that the stream was less than ideal. That is unfortunate, but it was not for any lack of effort from the video crew. I believe they had the setup to do a perfect live stream, but as gremlins are known to do, the broadcast deteriorated in spots. I blame it on the storm:

One of our panelists was Dick Knapinski, EAA's Senior Communications Advisor, a.k.a the "Busiest Man in All of Aviation" during this show week. He had told me that he's be happy to represent EAA on the panel but was technically on call, and might have to bail if something came up that needed his immediate attention. "My pocket buzzed once while sitting on the panel," Knapinski said, "and I knew something was up. When it buzzed a second time, that was it, I knew the storm we were predicting all day had arrived."

That storm was a fast-moving typical afternoon front that glowed orange, yellow and pink on the NEXRAD. Since everyone at the show has some version of an aviation WX app on their phones or iPads these days, it was not news that a storm was brewing. Later, during a chat over in Camp Bacon, one of the #avgeeks described what might have caught Knapinski's attention. "You could see the storm starting to hook," said Sam Wiltzius (@wiredforflight), "and you know what that means." Of course he was referring to the early stages of a tornado, but that did not develop, and the storm split in two just north of KOSH. The "Oshkosh Gods" had again protected the field as the heaviest downpours and hail went east and west of the airport.

But while the storm had minimal impact on the grounds, it did empty a fair amount of chairs at #Oshbash. This could have been people who fled to run back to check tiedowns or secure their camps. It was apparent during the door prize drawing when a surprising number of attendees who had received a drawing ticket did not materialize to claim their prize. But with the help of Esmeralda Mendoza and Teresa Venegas of Art Craft Paint - organized by Jolie Lucas of Mooney Ambassadors - we were able to give away all the swag:

The largest door prize was donated by Aero Glass, who is developing a very exciting augmented reality 3D HUD system to be used while flying with Epson Moverio Smart Glasses. Jeff Johnson, with Aero Glass, said interest in their product was off the charts at their booth (#1110). To learn all about this emerging aviation technology, visit the Aero Glass website and watch their latest video. Other door prizes from Phoenix Graphics, Sporty's Pilot Shop, Torgeon Swiss Aviator Watches, Flying Eyes Headset-friendly Sunglasses and authors Karlene Petitt and Eric Auxier were all very well received.

The idea of the major aviation associations joining forces in a manner that could produce a legit effort to seriously grow the pilot population is a good one, so says anyone I spoke with who attended #Oshbash. The tagline of the event was "the conversation starts right here, right now" and yes, that conversation has technically began. Starting it was the easy part, now what are the associations and the industry going to do next?

As I walked the grounds today at #OSH14, I am afraid to report that a disturbing number of pilots I asked think this was a good idea that was DOA the minute my event ended. I am not so negative, but I cannot honestly I feel like the ball was moved very far either.

To jump start the number of certificated pilots in the aviation family, it will take something far more substantial than any of the many great ideas and programs that were discussed at #Oshbash. It will take a bold leap off a cliff into a black hole of the unknown, one that could be hard for many of the associations to take. I have never said I thought a "GA Power Collective" would actually come together, only that the idea of working together is a discussion we absolutely need to have.

The conversation has started. Where will it end, what is the outcome we seek, and how will the massive roadblocks of different opinions within the associations be overcome to "save" GA? I never like to say GA is dying, but some of the people I spoke with today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh says it is. One very well-connected writer I spoke with today said that left unchecked, decreasing pilot numbers will mean the end of..."this." With wide arm movements, he was saying "this" - as in Oshkosh itself - may one day go away if something isn't done to reverse the trend of a shrinking pilot population.

Sitting on that bench, in that place, during this week, listening to someone lament about a GA world where we have no "Oshkosh," made me realize that this HAS to happen, the associations need to come together, period. There is no time left for excuses, it has to happen, now.

Because the alternative is completely unacceptable.

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