How Can I Help? — Small Steps Can Make A Big Difference


By Susan K. Parson, FAA Safety Briefing Editor

Photo of airplane.

You probably know the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. Everybody was asked to do an important job. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t. Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

That story seems especially relevant to this issue’s “Embracing the Environment” theme. When there is a large-scale task at hand, individuals often see it in all-or-nothing terms: I can’t do it all on my own, so there is nothing I can do. Not so. While it’s true that Nobody can do everything, Everybody can do something. In a time when there are many challenges to general aviation, and many growing concerns about how transportation and aviation affect the global environment, it’s increasingly important for each of us to do as much as we can to mitigate damage from our own individual activities.

Magazine cover graphic.

Ditch the Dumping

It always bugged me to throw fuel on the ramp after sumping the fuel tanks. That made me one of the earliest adapters of the GATS jar fuel tester, whose screen allows you to safely pour sampled fuel (minus the water) back into the tank. It may cost more than the traditional fuel testers, but the very modest cost of an environmentally-friendly fuel sampler is far less than the cost to the environment — not to mention the cost to your budget if you incur an EPA fine for fuel dumping.

Fuel sampling by a Civil Air Patrol pilot.

Another option is to use the fuel collection receptacles that are fast becoming a standard feature on ramps all over the country. If you can’t safely return sampled fuel to the tank, step to the nearest fuel collection container and pour it in. If your airport lacks such containers, speak to the FBO or airport management about installing them ASAP.

“SHH”ow Consideration

When I first started flying in northern Virginia, my home airport was surrounded by open fields. No longer. Several housing developments now occupy that once-empty space, and other open areas are gradually filling in. Nowadays, many of the airports that GA pilots call home are surrounded by other people’s actual homes. We pilots can huff and puff all we want to about how the airport was here first, and how “those people knew” that buying property near an airport would mean tolerating a certain amount of noise. Our huffing and puffing is pointless if “those people” complain to elected officials who would happily see the airport closed and consigned to “other economic uses.”

Photo over city.

It is incumbent upon all of us to do as much as we can do to reduce the noise impact on our neighbors. If there are residential developments near your airport, it’s a good bet that airport management has, so to speak, “heard” from them and worked out a noise mitigation plan that could include non-standard traffic patterns, designation of a calm wind runway that reduces traffic over more congested areas, and other such measures. Learn what noise mitigation measures exist at the airports you use and follow them as closely as you can.

Another way to fly friendly is to avoid prolonged maneuvering over any given area. That silo may be perfect for practicing turns around a point, but the folks in the farmhouse next to it may not consider their neighborhood to be as “uncongested” as it appears to you. That also applies to operating near environmentally-sensitive areas that are marked on sectional charts.

Doing your part to keep the planet green, clean, and quiet is more than a good idea. It’s the right thing to do.

Susan K. Parson ( is editor of FAA Safety Briefing and a Special Assistant in the FAA’s Flight Standards Service. She is a general aviation pilot and flight instructor.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2021 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
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Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).

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