Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why might pilots be generally conservative?

I saw this on a pilot's blog in reference to the on-going debate over aviation user fees:

...the chanting among the mostly conservative aviation community about socialism, communism, traitorism, etc.

User Fees are a contentious issue as most pilots believe a number of fundamental things:

- Government aviation services are already paid for via a per-gallon fuel tax. This is the same line of thinking that motorists follow when they see a multi-billion Highway Spending Package emerging from our spendaholic Congress despite the fact that billions are collected by the government every year in the for of gasoline taxes.

- Just because the government promises that these fees will only apply to large general aviation airplanes such as business jets, there is no reason to believe that they will not trickle down to the private plane segment. In fact, there is ample reason to distrust the government on this topic because there are multitudinous historical examples to point at, and European/Canadian pilots have already been down this path to the detriment of the entire private aviation industry in those countries. As our government seems hell bent on following the failed European socialism model, there is no reason to believe that this will be any different. As our current government has shown a tendency to encourage rivalry between economic strata within our populace, there is every reason to believe that they will justify their demonization of private pilots as "making the rich pay their fair share for their toys."

- The cost of administering and collecting the fees through the creation of yet another bloated government agency will be so expensive that even a reasonable fee will soon grow into an exorbitant fee as revenues are swallowed by the government machine.

To oppose a change in policy that will very likely result in massive damage to an important industry and will also very likely cause loss of life as pilots attempt to work around fees by forgoing the use of government (or privatized) services whenever possible should not, in my opinion, be categorized as "chanting among the mostly conservative aviation community about socialism, communism, traitorism, etc." But that is not what I want to concentrate on.

I'm more interested in the contention that the piloting community is comprised primarily of people with a conservative viewpoint. I got to wondering if that was truly the case and if so, why that might be. I feel somewhat qualified to comment on this as I myself am a pilot, and I believe myself to be fairly conservative. I spent some time thinking about whether or not there is truly a relationship between being a pilot and having a conservative viewpoint, and I quickly decided that there probably is.

To consider what traits draw a person into wanting to fly an airplane, we have to first delineate the various reasons people want to fly. Some do it because it is an efficient way to travel, for the most part. Others do it simply for the enjoyment of flight. There are certainly cases of both, just as there are as many other reasons as there are pilots. If we go with the gross categories of "efficient travel" and "enjoys the flying," though, I can definitively say that I fall into the latter group. I fly because I love to fly.

That determined, we can then begin to investigate just what it is about flying my own airplane that appeals to me. There are, of course, hundreds of reasons. I like the mastery of the machine. I like the sensations of moving myself and the airplane in five degrees of freedom. But primary among the reasons are that I love the feeling of freedom to go where I want to go, when I want to go, with very few restrictions, I love the feeling that I am in nearly complete control of my destiny, I love the challenge of responding to an ever-changing environment, and I love the feeling that I will succeed or fail entirely on my own merits.

Considering that, would it be any wonder if most pilots found that liberal political beliefs do not fit their viewpoints? Wouldn't it simply make sense that collectivism, nanny-ism, freedom from consequences, poor decision making, and over regulation would be anathema to them? Well, it does to me. I pride myself on the ability to not only make my own decisions but to live with the consequences as well. I'm proud that I have been able to succeed without an overbearing government moving obstacles out of my way. I cringe at the thought of government being the one to decide on winners or losers without any regard to the inherent unfairness involved.

No, I would not be at all surprised to find that the majority of the pool of people that choose to fly because of their love of doing it, and doing it well, are for the most part conservative in other aspects of their lives. And for whatever it's worth, I am opposed to user fees. Adamantly opposed. The reasons should be clear. It should also be clear that those reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with "socialism, communism, traitorism," and I deeply resent the implication that they do.