GA leaders look ahead to growth, development

February 10, 2011

Economic conditions over the past two years took their toll on general aviation. But amidst uncertainty, GA celebrated some important successes.

Groups banded together against user fees and saw the proposal disappear from the president’s budget. GA caucuses in the House and Senate grew swiftly. The Transportation Security Administration set aside its original Large Aircraft Security Program proposal and listened to industry suggestions. And now, with positive economic indicators signaling an upturn, GA groups are looking ahead with hope.

“We’re beginning this year with more optimism than the last two,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller in a panel discussion Feb. 7 at the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) FBO Leadership Conference in Savannah, Ga. NATA President Jim Coyne moderated the discussion, which included Fuller and Steve Brown, National Business Aviation Association senior vice president for operations and administration.

Key initiatives for the future include the rollout of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the association executives agreed. These modernization efforts require a commitment of funding for the FAA in coming years, and GA groups are looking for incentives that would motivate pilots and businesses to equip with the new technology. Fuller asked NATA members—GA service companies—to share recommendations for driving the business case of NextGen.

Another key to a successful future, Fuller said during a question-and-answer session, is getting more people flying. The association’s Flight Training Student Pilot Retention Initiative aims to correct a long decline in pilot numbers.