Five Scenarios for A Missouri Lobbyist to Use General Aviation

By Travis H. Brown

Contract lobbyists that survive past ten years of state & local experience know all too well that time is usually the most limiting variable within your professional services.   Clients seem to want help promoting, passing, progressing, or defeating legislation at the same time periods within any given legislative session.  While State Capitols may vary, the demands on a corporate client’s industry most often requires a state affairs director to juggle one day in Jefferson City with another meeting in Columbus.

For lobbyists less familiar with precisely what general aviation offers those who may be influence-peddling in the morning, while campaigning in the afternoon, I offer the following five Jimmy from Seinfeld scenarios to explain how plane makes for gain:

  1. Lobbyist Travis Brown has a Sunday night meeting with healthcare clients who cannot easily meet during the week in Kansas City.  Due to their prolonged dinner meeting, a late night return drive is no longer optimal.  An early Monday morning hearing or legislative briefing before 9 am in Jefferson City prompts Lobbyist Travis Brown to shorten his two hour car ride into one 30 minute flight to optimize both meeting slots.
  2. Lobbyist Travis Brown needs to meet several new candidates for office that his clients may wish to support for higher office.  Three of the top five candidates are having their major fundraisers or town hall debates within the same week.  Each of the candidates are from completely opposite corners of Missouri, making a show me state drive or shared commute with other lobbyists impractical.  Due to campaign deadlines, and future travel obligations, lobbyist Travis Brown chooses to flight plan all candidates within one full day of short excursions.
  3. Lobbyist Travis Brown has held an important ballot strategy dinner appointment in Saint Louis with a major client and his guests for eight weeks now.  However, after a long day of legislative committee hearings in Jefferson City, followed by two Capitol Lobbying Days on the same afternoon, Travis is running late to make his dinner on time.  To make matters worse, an emergency meeting with a State Senator has been called for 9:30 pm back at the State Capitol on a pressing policy matter.  Travis Brown chooses to correct his schedule by compressing four hours in a car into less than one hour to and from the State Capitol with time to spare for his last caucus meeting.
  4. Lobbyist Travis Brown has agreed to speak at both a morning radio show in Springfield and a chamber of commerce debate in Joplin months in advance on the same day.  Within the last 72 hours, it becomes important to attend an issue advocacy conference in Washington, DC that starts bright and early the next morning.  Since Travis can be joined by copilots and his film production crews if he flies, he arranges private aviation to make all of his travel segments on time.
  5.  Lobbyist Travis Brown is having a great legislative session in Jefferson City, but has seen little of his newest industry client near the Missouri River.  His government affairs client handles state & local public affairs across at least eight Midwestern States.  Due to new industry regulations and several crisis communication projects, his client is only available to meet this week in Chicago.  As it turns out, Travis was headed to Des Moines, Iowa earlier on the same day, after his legislative testimony was finished mid-week in Jefferson City.  By flying onto Chicago from Des Moines, Travis is able to join the industry meeting and compress a three day slot of client prospect travel into one overnight trip.

I use these third person references because my life, and the lives of others on which I depend, have been improved through the vigilant use of general aviation.  America is a big place, and lobbying across the fifty states and some major cities can quickly take its toll as a carpet-bagging frequent flyer.  While using airplanes is very important to me since I am my own owner-operator pilot, it is also very important to thousands of small communities.  The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) produced some great studies that outline the 1.2 million jobs that are sustained by one flight after another.  Many Governors themselves depend on private pilots themselves, or are familiar with how worldwide aircraft manufacturing is lead from states like Kansas, Georgia, Missouri, or Washington.

Like most freedoms, the price to use it is responsibility.

Warning: Taking Up General Aviation can hurt Your Golf Game

By Travis H. Brown
I knew it was a likely trade when I started flight lessons nearly a decade ago. As my total time in flight increased, the free time available for my golf swing shortened. I will be the first to acknowledge that entry into my mid-life isn’t making natural athleticism any easier.

In my entrepreneurship columns, I often quote how experts have proven that you need an average of 10,000 committed hours of practice to master any skill or profession. As a professional lobbyist, I am invited to scramble more than a breakfast chef. However, I find that such times are not very productive to real advances in the little steps necessary to improve your handicap.

Sometimes on the golf course with clients or corporate colleagues a plane buzzes by and I spur up a conversation about flying. For anyone suffering on my team, my contributions to eagles and birdies are usually limited. However, if that same crew has a chance to join me elsewhere by flight, I find that they are usually more appreciative of how I have spent my past years of training and weekly flights.

During most weeks, any leisure time is very limited such that I rarely swing a club without a client or employee present. That makes the excuses a bit easier. However, due to more general aviation travel shortening the distance between my shanks and stellar courses, golf still taunts me. Just about the time that I want to banish myself from another green, I will redeem myself amidst a glorified setting.

For me, effective golf seems to share some similar philosophies as safe flying in private aviation.

First, a clear mind with a relaxed body allows for better form.  A relaxed swing is just like a smooth yet sturdy hand on the yoke, even among low ceilings or heavy rains.

Second, intense focus on the task should alienate you among your non-critical surroundings. A great tee-off amongst a group works best if you tune out your environment. The same is true in a cockpit that can easily get distracted by choppy radios, nervous passengers, or bad weather.

Third, golf’s about the journey, not the destination. Playing eighteen holes amongst friends where it’s not too fast, nor too slow is a blessing on a fair weather day. The same is true about a nice day of flying – an aviator with his heart still in the air is ready to go again – anytime, anywhere.

So, the next time you hear a plane cruise over your summer course, thank a private pilot for making someone else’s golf experience more enjoyable.