I am a student pilot who first soloed in 1985. Over the years, I have spent many hours hanging around local airports watching traffic. When the big game is in town, my excitement was not in the game, but in watching a blimp or banner tow airplanes circle the local airport.
Now I am a father of three. My youngest (age 3) has expressed an interest in airplanes by looking reflexively at every airplane that flys overhead. So, like any good father I took her to the local airport to watch the airplanes take off and land.
However, the local airport now looks like a prison. When I used to visit the airport, I could drive to the taxiway, park and watch traffic. Now, there is a fence, a key code gate to the hangars and an FBO with a sign "Pilots Only". Since, I used to be a member of a flying club at the airport I was able to convince the airport manager to let my daughter and I sit on the lawn to watch the traffic. (Apparently against the rules) Imagine how many other parents would be afraid to even ask if it is ok to look at the planes tke off and land? Hoe many parents go to an airport only to turn around because of the intimidating fences? I understand the need for security but. . .
I believe local airports should have a viewing area for gawkers, young and old and maybe even a "Welcome" sign. It would do wonders for aviation enthusiasts and maybe even general aviation. In an effort to support this notion. I have also taken the step of talking to my local county commissioner (the airport is owned by the county) to help gain traction and offered to assist in a private funding option to creat an attractive viewing area for people like me.
I am hopeful that this post my inspire others to address similar issues in their hometown.
As an aside, my 3 year old daughters interest in aviation has re-kindled my desire to finish my ticket. I already have 85 hours most acquired a long time ago and my 8 and 6 year old kids now want to go to the airport.