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Is there a reason why the GA community is so tribal?

There is an old joke that if you put four pilots on a desert island, a year later you will find they have set up

  • four type specific user groups
  • four splinter groups
  • four pilot forums, each with 20 members

This is all fun, but when there are so many groups who want to keep their individual identities, the regulators can just laugh and ignore them.

I have just seen an article on this by a GA-active UK politician in FTN (a UK GA trade mag) and in there he says

which pretty well sums up what I have been hearing for 15 years, from kicking around the GA scene here. In the UK basically none of them want to work with any other. In the end, as one example, some sort of half-baked deal was done under the banner of Europe Air Sports, which is a bit silly for e.g. IFR GA which is not really a “sporting” activity, but nobody else wants to work with them, including AOPA UK last time I heard. And AOPA UK itself is controversial and most UK PPLs won’t join it for various reasons.

I wonder if this is because the membership of (so many of) the different organisations is so splintered that none of them get enough money to employ paid execs. This results in the “volunteer organisation problem” where “colourful individuals” rise to the top, unstoppably, often leaving a load of p1ssed off people (who are also not getting paid, but who have a life and less free time) in their wake.

I’ve met a lot of these characters at conferences etc and it’s clear why they don’t want to work with others. The Q is why they got there in the first place.

And I know from many pilots this is not just a UK issue.

In the USA, you have AOPA US and they represent the whole lot, without any question. They have loads of money and have a paid executive, so they avoid the issue of “individual” personalities. Well, not entirely, some of their heads have been criticised for fancying themselves a bit too much. But eventually these people step down, or get removed. And lower down the scale you can definitely remove people who are not contributing.

Maybe Europe itself is too divided culturally, with all the different languages and different CAAs? The UK CAA is so totally different from the DGAC which is different from the LBA, etc. Doing pan-European business is just as difficult for the cultural reasons, so maybe this is a lost cause. But within each country, there should be just one organisation.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I always thought AOPA generally, and the UK chapter specifically as relatively benign. The membership fee keeps going up, but they are helpful to GA pilots who need a friend if the regulator decides to take an interest in you.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

Peter, the situation you describe under #01 reminds me of the conditions and “colourful individuals” here in Germany. Indeed, not too much divided culturally.

EDxx, Germany

The problems start at the bottom of the organisation, with the long time members who see their little bit of aviation as an exclusive club that only the self apointed elite can join, one only has to venture into a gliding club to see this attitude. The irony of this is that the BGA is quite forward looking and willing to work with other aviation organisations for the common good, but those who hang around the club house with one cup of tea and six straws are difficult to convince of the need for such alliances.

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