Around the Airport

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inside Information

When a goal of yours is to keep your lobby groups hard at work, inside information is something to be cherished. And although almost any information can be bartered for or discovered through normal channels if you are persistent, knowing something others do not is harder and harder to come by these days. Let’s face it, the internet makes it tough. So, a few days ago, when I found out that EAA was about to let a large group of people go, I began to wonder if anything positive could be made of this negative.
What do you do with inside information? Well, I considered being the first to put it out there so the employees would have a heads up but decided against it because it wouldn't do anything but cause concern. Then I decided I would give it to an aviation news service but decided against it. If you’re asking why the second one came to mind, it’s because I think EAA needs to know that a lot of people are interested in what they are doing and a lot of people, including on the inside, don’t like a lot of it. Therefore, people on the inside are willing to share it with other people if they think it is going to help the broader membership base see what is going on behind the curtain. Essentially, it say’s to EAA, “You can’t hide.” Yet, my other thoughts easily won out and I didn’t post it at all.
I like EAA. Or maybe better said, I have met a lot of wonderful people that work for EAA, and in the end, I felt bad knowing people were going to lose jobs. Learning more, I also felt terrible for some who had already quietly agreed to go.  EAA was in the middle of hope and change and all I could do is worry about who would be next. The ultimate answer, as I expected, was “the wrong ones”. But, I couldn’t let the information go to waste.  At the very least I could let them know it wasn’t a secret.
Calling up EAA early this morning, I asked to talk to Dick Knapinski. When the receptionist asked what my call was in regards to, I said “About a reorganization that is going to go on today” and she seemed startled. That’s when I knew a lot of people didn’t know and I worried even more about the outcome. Would EAA end up better or worse?
Dick and I ended up having a long conversation and he was quite open and willing to talk without sharing too many details. Along the way he discussed what areas might be hit, what areas might be expanded, and what might be the reasons for these changes, never betraying EAA. In turn, he then patiently and politely listened to my thoughts about many of these areas and then we both decided it was time for us to get on with our lives. Dick’s a straight shooter from my experience and today I’m sure his job is a tough one. Not nearly as tough as those who lost theirs, but tough nonetheless. In any case, organizations sometimes become a little heavy in times of lean and tough decisions must be made. My concern is whether the right ones are.
After this conversation, I decided to let it go. I had done my part, called and questioned what was going on and what for, and everything was regrettably far outside my control.
For our friends who are no longer associated with EAA, you’ll always be welcome here. We know the job you did, what you had to work with, and what you were often up against, and we will not forget it.
As for the new executive positions, let me just say that EAA has gone overboard with their infatuation with celebrity. Good GA people were let go but Jeff Skyles, the guy who admittedly didn’t fly small planes for a long long time until fortune smiled on him and he bought a Waco, is now the VP in charge of Chapters and Youth Education. It was hard enough to swallow his articles knowing that someone believed a recent rediscovery of small planes, brought on by a water ditching, made him more qualified to talk about flying small planes that hundreds of other people with real qualifications and experience, but this new position is just silly. And God forbid you don’t talk politics to him. You might find he supports a lot of things that aren’t that friendly to aviation. Oh well, that seems to be EAA’s new direction.