General Aviation in California …
Business: enables face-to-face meetings and the delivery of time-critical documents, supplies, and repair parts necessary to keep businesses operating. While other business managers while away hours in crowded airline terminal waiting areas, many enterprises that employing general aviation aircraft are productively engaged in the privacy of their own aircraft en route to the next meeting. For businesses small and large it truly is “No Plane, No Gain!”
Agriculture: Aerial application of pest and weed control products enhance California’s agricultural industry’s ability to supply the global food market. There are more than 100 companies in the state that conduct aerial application services. Much more sophisticated than the Hollywood “Crop Duster” image, understand how this segment of the aviation industry operates in this video, “The Modern Aerial Applicator,” produced for the California Agricultural Aircraft Association.
Emergency Response: Speeding above congested roads, taking the most direct route to where they’re needed, Emergency Medical Service helicopters give victims a chance to reach critical care facilities quickly, often within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after extreme trauma during which the hope for survival is greatest. Every metropolitan area in the state has at least one EMS aircraft on call 24 hours a day. In larger regions, multiple hospitals operate small fleets of helicopters and possess on-site landing pads to service multiple patients simultaneously. Several EMS operators such as CALSTAR and CAL-ORE have established bases at rural locations to assure the fastest response possible.
Disaster Response: When earthquakes or floods destroy roads and rails, communities rely on aircraft to provide access to food and supplies. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, General Aviation aircraft were called upon to ferry medical supplies and equipment into Watsonville’s airport as surface transportation was severely degraded by damaged roadways. Among those providing disaster response include the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps (EVAC) and the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
Environmental Research and Monitoring: General Aviation pilots and passengers are afforded a clear view of the environment. Operating at altitudes lower than commercial air line jets, GA flyers are often the first to discover and report forest fires. In cooperation with the nonprofit environmental champion LightHawk, California’s leaders have been afforded opportunities to view remote and inaccessible regions in order to accurately assess their conditions and create regulations that are based on reality, not overzealous emotional hype.
Air Freight: If you live in Redding and receive a package from FedEx or UPS you can bet it traveled on a General Aviation aircraft for at least a portion of its journey. Just as commercial passenger airlines often use a “hub and spoke” system, relying on a network of commuter aircraft to feed the mainline carrier, so too the air freight industry operates. However, without the need to accommodate passengers, the state’s smaller air freight businesses rely on rugged “aerial trucks” to haul packages and letters. In California, a large, widely dispersed population makes General Aviation an essential part of the small communities’ economic viability. Companies such as Burbank-based Ameriflite, LLC and West Air, Inc. (Nevada-based) provide dozens of California towns with daily overnight package and letter delivery opportunities.
(Both FedEx and UPS operate major air freight hubs in California; FedEx in Oakland and UPS in Ontario.)
Electronic News Gathering: What major television news story is complete without a live from-the-air report? Evolving from its infancy as predominately radio traffic reporting, today’s ENG aircraft are airborne High Definition Broadcast Studios. Helicopters offer a wide array of capabilities and are the platform of choice for the media. With headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Torrance, Robinson Helicopter Company is a rising player in the production of ENG aircraft.
Flight Training: Aircraft aren’t very useful if there aren’t any pilots to operate them. California’s flight training industry has seen a significant decline during the past decade as regulatory processes have encouraged many smaller schools to relocate or close. Still, flight training exists in the Golden State, and does so in some rather spectacular ways. Based in Redding, IASCO Flight Training provides primary and advanced flight training for up to 180 students from airlines located in China.
At the other end of the state in El Cajon, SAA International is one of the few flight training schools that is approved by the world’s three largest Aviation Authorities, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), Europe’s Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).