Missouri gathering learns GA critical to agriculture

July 17, 2008

It may have been a dreary rainy day, but that didn’t stop a throng of pilots and aviation enthusiasts or Rep. Sam Graves (a Piper J-3 Cub owner and AOPA and EAA member) from turning out for the Fifth Annual Wing Nuts Flying Circus and Fly-In at Gould Memorial Airport in Tarkio, Mo.

“The event really brings together GA pilots, aviation industry leaders, government officials, and members of Congress to share a mutual passion for flying,” said Graves. Tarkio is Graves’ hometown and in Missouri’s Sixth Congressional District, which Graves represents.

Besides a spectacular airshow featuring both vintage and contemporary civilian and military aircraft, coordinated by air traffic controllers from the Missouri Air National Guard, the event also included an aviation town hall meeting. AOPA President Phil Boyer and National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen were among the featured speakers.

“What would bring us out to the rural heartland on a muddy Saturday morning?” said Boyer. “It’s to emphasize the critical importance of general aviation and GA airports to our smaller communities. For example, without GA, crop yields would be cut by some 50 percent, and that would have a huge impact on the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans.”

Boyer noted that as a pilot, Rep. Graves understood the importance of aviation to rural America and the agricultural industry. “Big city politicians sometimes attack GA as being for the ‘fat cats.’ I guess they’ve never gotten up to watch an aerial applicator working the fields in the early morning calm, or an air ambulance taking off from a GA airport.”

(Rep. Sam Graves is in a tight re-election battle, as are some other aviation friends currently serving in Congress. AOPA Pilot magazine will profile many of the candidates who can have a positive impact on aviation in the October issue.)

AOPA Midwest Regional Representative Bob Dickens also told the crowd about a recent success in the Missouri legislature, which passed a bill increasing the amount of money going into the Missouri Aviation Trust Fund. Gov. Matt Blunt signed the bill into law earlier this month.