Reflections on Austin
By Tom Poberezny, EAA Chairman/President
February 19, 2010 — As we watched the tragic events in Austin, Texas, unfold on Thursday, many of us involved in aviation were probably asking, "Why?" It hits especially close to home when we see aviation – a pursuit that has brought so much joy, fulfillment and charity to so many – used in a horrific way.
Reflecting on this incident, it reminded me of other cases where a person bent on violence was determined to fulfill that goal. The tool, whether it was a rental truck, a backpack or an airplane, was irrelevant. Any available resource that could attract the desired attention was acceptable.
As details emerged in Thursday's tragedy, it formed the picture of a person bent on an ultimate and selfish act. In such a case, it would be impossible to legislate or regulate out of existence all the items a person could use to make the intended statement.
Creating more barriers in the name of protection misses the point. Public policy is neither wise nor effective when created as an instant reaction or attempt to predict the motivation of individuals. Responsible public policy is balanced, reasonable and considers the many layers of consequences.
We can't afford to mitigate the freedoms that so many Americans have sacrificed and died to protect. It is important to keep that perspective. Aviation has always been a bastion of freedom and responsibility. The 600,000 pilots in the U.S. hold themselves to high standards of responsibility, including safety and security, and follow rigorous regulations for competency and health. Each year, more than 26 million flight hours are logged by general aviation pilots for themselves, their businesses, and in service for countless charitable efforts.
Thursday's incident ended with a sad result. In the aftermath, we must be thoughtful and deliberative. Any attempt to heal from this tragedy through public policy cannot create more harmful consequences for all Americans, including the hundreds of thousands of aviators who every day exemplify the best of who we are as a nation.