Go west, old dude…

jamie beckettOne of the great advantages of writing professionally is that we who scribble ideas down for others to read rarely have to face those general-aviation-newsothers in person. We don’t have to worry about an errant idea sending you to the refrigerator to ferret out some overly ripe fruits or vegetables that you can hurl in our general direction as an indication of your displeasure with our prose. We don’t get too many exuberant pats on the back, either. But avoiding the first scenario makes missing out on the second seem like small potatoes.

Occasionally, I will break with tradition and appear in public. Most often these forays out into the world involve a grocery store, a coffee shop, my neighborhood seaplane base, or the local FBO.

But this October I’ll be wandering a bit farther from my generally well beaten path. I’m headed to San Luis Obispo, California, where the California Pilots Association is holding its annual convention and meeting, called California Dreamin’. If you’re in the vicinity drop by. This promises to be a good time for people with aviation on their minds.

The festivities begin on Friday evening, Oct. 18, and carry on through Saturday afternoon, Oct. 19. The San Luis Jet Center at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (KSBP) will host the epicenter of activity, which in this case includes speakers like AOPA’s Bill Dunn, 2011 CFI of the Year Judy Phelps, some guy named Rod Machado…and me.

It will be my bold task to entertain the troops with comments that are very similar to the sort of musings published here so regularly, and perhaps even light a fire of optimism and inspiration under their seats. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to give you a sneak peek at what I’m planning.

I think of this as a public service, really. Partly because I know the entire general aviation population can’t fit into the building, so some of you may have to stand down the ramp a ways and may not hear every single nuance of my presentation. And I do it partly because I don’t want Bill or Judy or Rod to sneak up behind me as I leave the podium, grab me by the throat and whisper in my ear in a voice that sounds shockingly like Clint Eastwood, “That’s what I was going to say, punk.”

I’ll be giving two speeches all together. On Friday night I’ll be delivering a talk I’ve dubbed “Let’s Get Motivated.” That’s not an idle topic, either. With pilot starts ebbing and the overall population of general aviation participants waning, it’s well past time that serious GA enthusiasts began having productive discussions about how to boost our numbers and get ourselves back into growth mode. That’s no easy task, especially if you start the discussion without consideration of how we got into this fix in the first place.

There’s no spoilers coming here, so you can keep reading without ruining the experience in San Luis Obispo. Suffice it to say I may, yes I just may, have a perspective to share that’s a bit different than what you’ve heard in the past.

On Saturday I’ll be standing up before the assembled crowd to share “Collaborators – a success story.” No, it has nothing to do with Paris in the 1940s. Instead I’m going to be sharing a story about how back here in Florida we’ve done something unique and wonderful to start reversing the process of withering numbers general aviation has become so familiar with in recent years. We’re pioneering a new way of working general aviation into the community as a real asset, and believe it or not we’re seeing actual success with this new method.

Best of all, rather than just tease attendees with a smattering of details then coax them into buying in as a regional manager of our creation, I’m going to spill the beans on the whole thing. That’s right. I’m going to tell you exactly what we’ve done, exactly how we’ve done it, and exactly what the results have been. I’m going to hand you an easily customizable blueprint for general aviation enhancement that you can take home to your own community and put it into action yourself.

And how much is all this wondrous entertainment and enlightenment going to cost you? Not one red cent, friend. That’s right, California Dreamin’ is a free event. Just drive right up, saunter over to join the crowd and prepare to have one heck of a good time. Of course you can find a few things to spend a dollar on if you want to. Membership in the organization will only set you back $35 a year. If you want a more immediate bang for your buck, the BBQ dinner on Friday is less than half as much, and the lunch on Saturday catered by Central Coast Smokers carries a price tag of only $10.

If the idea of hearing me spout off in public and enjoying a plate full of delectable delicacies isn’t enough to get you in gear, you might consider the networking opportunities to be worth double the price of admission. Besides, I hear that Machado guy is pretty good with a story, too.

I’m off this big ol’ sandbar and headed for the west coast, y’all. Temporarily at least. And for those of you who will be California Dreamin’ along with the rest of us…would you mind leaving the over-ripe produce at home? Thanks. I would hate to leave a slippery podium behind for Bill and Judy and Rod.