The GA community is special… Thoughts on why!
I’ve seen lot of articles that have pointed to reasons pilots are special and make up such a small percentage of the population. I think there’s some truth to those articles but it can be said of any specialized skill or trade that is not common to everyday folks (electricians, paramedics, doctors, mechanics, exe.). I’ve come to a different conclusion as to why pilots are special. 

A lot of special skills are associated with jobs or careers and as result people become specialized in something. Usually while young in a career, people are excited about their chosen trade or profession and will on occasion use those abilities for friends and charities. But time wears on and eventually it becomes a job and a lot less of a community camaraderie. I’m speaking in some broad brushes and generality which a portion of pilots fall into (fast tracks to airlines and such like mentioned above). I know some of you may point to various professionals who do seasonal fundraising or special events and such, which is awesome and is its own kind of special. Here’s what happen to me and I’ve seen it so many times now for other folks.  

It was December 14th 2019 and my wife and I finally got the opportunity to go celebrate our 14th anniversary (albeit a month late due to holiday busyness, kid events and such). We were originally going to fly down to Pigeon Forge TN which is only about a 30min flight from our local field, otherwise it’s over a 2-hour drive because of distance and traffic! But the weather was not on our side that day with low ceilings and rain. So as a VFR pilot, I did what all VFR pilots would do…. Yep we drove down. 

Still in good spirits though we had to drive we arrived at the tourist trap a few hours after we set out and proceeded to have a good morning and afternoon that involved a museum visit and awesome lunch. Finally we decided around late afternoon to go a little further into Gatlinburg TN (just outside of the Great Smokey Mountains) to check out a new moonshine distillery that opened up recently (a friend recommended). All was well, we walked around a bit and set off for home in early evening. 

As we were traveling back through Pigeon Forge TN, a young lady shot out from a side street and T-boned our vehicle on the passenger side. Thankfully no one was hurt except our vehicles, our vehicle was disabled as she had hit us square in the rear quarter panel and messed up the rear suspension. We exchanged information and after waiting for about an hour, the tow truck showed up to haul our wounded four wheeled friend away. 

Meanwhile another problem brewed! I spent the hour we were waiting for the tow truck trying to find a rental car so that we could get home (two hours away). There were absolutely NO options anywhere nearby. Apparently all the rental vehicle places close down early on Saturday afternoon and don’t open back up until Monday. Which is a real problem for us because we had to get back home to our kids, work and our lives. We were effectively stranded!!! It was late by now so we found our way to a hotel for the night and figured we’d just readdress the problem in the morning. 

Sunday morning, we woke up had our coffee and breakfast and I started to think who could come get us, if anyone. The weather was beautiful that morning so I called a couple of my pilot friends to see what they were up to, straight to voicemail on both accounts. I managed to reach another pilot buddy who was a bit tied up until later in the evening. Just then my call waiting rang and Kevin’s name popped up (pilot friend). Kevin asked what happen and I explained the whole ordeal. Kevin said “well buddy, let me check the weather and I’ll call ya back in a few minutes”. Sure enough the phone rang about 10min later and Kevin said I’ll be there in about an hour! So we scrambled to check out of our hotel and find a 20min ride to the local GA airport. 

Sure enough a little over an hour later our friend passed over midfield and joined the downwind for the active runway. He loaded us up and I flew right seat as we headed home. The flight was short, about 15-20min (his plane is much faster than the one I fly) and a beautiful sight out the window. Next thing we knew, we were shooting a final approach through Cumberland Gap for runway 28. While some might say “so what, your friend picked you up and gave you a ride home”. I just want to say that it really is a big deal and not just because we were in a pickle! It’s a big deal because it highlights the sense of community and friendship that is so prevalent in the GA community. Neither one of us are “professional pilots” though we take out flying seriously. We are just a couple of working guys who happen to be pilots and love flying. And when a really good excuse came along to help a friend out, he answered the call! I personally believe these types of things happen more often than we read about! I mean in addition to the great volunteering that private pilots do for disaster recovery, medical appointment flights for kids in need, charity flights for family trying to get home to sick relatives and so on. I bet there are a whole lot of folks who just help each other out and keep each other flying just because they can, want to and love it!