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September 29, 2009
By Alyssa J. Miller
If 415,000 passionate, vocal AOPA members and strong associations can make a difference on general aviation issues on Capitol Hill, imagine what a united army of legislators can do to help.
The Senate on Sept. 28 formed the General Aviation Caucus to “work with pilots, aircraft owners, the aviation industry, and relevant government agencies to ensure a safe and vibrant environment exists for GA in our country.” Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) will co-chair the caucus. The House formed its GA Caucus in April.
“At a time when NextGen is being developed and a long-term FAA funding solution is in question, the House and Senate GA Caucuses will be instrumental in carrying our industry’s message,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “Their support will add weight to the issues we are advocating for pilots and aircraft owners every day.”
Upon forming the caucus, Begich and Johanns pointed out how important GA is to their states. Begich said that aviation is a “primary mode of transportation” in Alaska, while Johanns explained that GA “helps keep our state connected, supports economic development, and helps our businesses operate efficiently.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the first senator to join the caucus, is an avid pilot with more than 10,000 hours and has participated in many GA events, including EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.. He has defended GA on aviation taxes, the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (now a special flight rules area), and more.
“As a pilot and longtime friend of the general aviation community, I am extremely pleased by the formation of the Senate General Aviation Caucus,” Inhofe said in a press statement. “Many significant issues affecting the GA community will be debated this Congress, and the formation of this caucus should assure the aviation community that they have advocates in the United States Senate.”
Pilots should contact their senators and encourage them to join the GA Caucus.
Mark Begich (D-Alaska) (co-chair) Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) (co-chair) James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Tom Udall (D-N.M.) Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) John Thune (R-S.D.)
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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