An Interview With John McKenna, Chairman of Recreational Aviation Foundation


We're speaking with john. Mckenna who is the chairman in one of six co founders of the recreational aviation foundation or simply r._a._f. Korea created during a backwoods campfire discussion in two thousand three the r._i._f. Has developed into an organization that stretches from the pacific to the atlantic and beyond what exactly is the purpose of the r._i._f. I think our mission statement says it pretty well. It's to preserve protect and to maintain and creates recreational opportunities rare scripts for people across the united states komo early for recreational opportunities so we're talking about remote airstrips when i have in my mind is grass gris drips in the woods. Is that what we're talking about. That could be certainly what you might see or think of if you were to do the poster but they r._a._f. Has really taken to the fact that where people can go and enjoy themselves with their plane or have a fun time they also count and <hes> so we might sort of break it into two kinds of airports one which would be known as backcountry airport which might somewhat fit that descript or that you just suggested and the other is <hes> perhaps same front entry airport that isn't necessarily buried in the in the back woods or in bottom of a deep canyon if might frankly c._b._s. Not on the lakefront edger <hes> on the edge of town. I think of some in oregon that are on the beach people can frankly fly into their bonanza go for a hike or go set up their tent and bring their children or their grandchildren or friends and <hes> for a bike ride or whatever the case may be so the stereotype might be as you described. We'd like to think that it's expanding recreational use and preserving the fun places for people to go with an airplane. So how many airports like that are you counting and are they endanger of closure well. There are certainly some that are very definitely in danger and when i say danger there are activists that perhaps don't share the same interest in aviation that we all do and they would just assume that airplanes in any way shape or form place would go away and they candidly work at making that take place so there's certainly people who are actively taking to close certain airstrips in certain parts of the country then there are frankly ones where might go but at the other end of the spectrum they've just been forgotten about and there's some use but not a lot so people fly by and they asked the question. I wonder could you land there. Can i land there and our first filter is does it have some recreational value or some interest to it that people might enjoy once they get on the ground bill today. Today i find myself standing in stover mont and we spent a great day yesterday exploring some of this area with some friends many of which you would know touching down on grass airstrips all up and down the shores of lake champlain up near mount marcy and in the mountains of vermont bond and you may not think of that as that country flying but it was a landing in some spectacular places with spectacular views and lots of things extraju yeah actually i've been there and it's a beautiful part of the world i know you're from the west the news the taller mountains than they have in the east but that can be pretty rugged around stowe vermont well isn't that the fun part about airplanes and that is that we get the opportunity to see things that maybe aren't in our backyard and and yes. You're absolutely right. I might have been one of those previously biased people who thought that all the mountains in the west but i can assure you they're not <hes> <hes> somebody left behind right here in vermont and they they go up to some tall elevations and i'm convinced we don't have the corner on the market working out in the west funny so the r._a._f. Is sixteen years in to its existence into its program. How would you evaluate your record so apar- astonishing i think it would candidly i'm both at times stunned and more often humbled when you start out with six people who literally have an idea and sort of parked himselves around a campfire and you find yourself involved with an organization fifteen almost seventeen years later that has some ten thousand plus members scattered all across all fifty states in twelve or fourteen eighteen different foreign countries and you know bill. One of the most interesting things is the foreign members that we have is the r._a._f. Who i every once in a while get a chance is to engage with and their reason for belonging is they want to preserve what we've talked about here because it's probably already been lost in the place they live and they're willing to support it here just on the off chance that they may get a chance to come and do it themselves or they think that we should be pretty vigilant about this because we live in a very special spot that has some are unique freedom attached to it. What are the greatest challenges or obstacles to the r._i._f. Fulfilling its mission. It's probably not much different than most of our businesses or anything else and it's the people and the challenges we are nearly one hundred percent volunteer organization. Asian people are all volunteers. They all do this because they love it. It's surely always the <hes> the challenge to keep the right kind of leadership and people who <hes> have the time to devote to it to that end. We are blessed with a great deal of folks. That are are just passionate about this stuff so i may be you. Don't worry about the same things that others do but yet at the same time i do worry about the interest in aviation. I was just asked yesterday as a matter of fact what do you think of the drone industry and how will that affect what you're doing and we're about the places whereabouts saving the places and maybe my children or grandchildren will help them up way be he delivered to some of these special places in some sort of a vehicle that i don't quite understand yet today but if the place doesn't exist then perhaps they won't make any difference. I feel like we're on the right track. We're basically land conservation group that plies airplanes and probably not bad place to be not a bad place at all and you're at a very very good place right now up in sto- in thank you for your time and good luck with the program. Thank you so much. We appreciate all you do. We've been speaking with john mckenna the chairman and co-founder of the recreational aviation foundation this william garvey editor of business in commercial aviation magazine. Thank you for your time and

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