April 2, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Members of the Arkansas legislature have founded the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Legislative Caucus, created to “promote a business-friendly environment through common-sense legislation that supports the growth of the Arkansas aerospace and aviation industries.” The newly formed caucus is the brainchild of Arkansas Rep. Joe Jett (D), a pilot, aircraft owner, and AOPA member, along with Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R), who is working toward his private pilot certificate.
Twenty-five representatives and eight senators attended the first meeting on March 18. State GA caucuses have been formed in Arkansas, New Hampshire, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio, complementing already established general aviation caucuses in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The importance of GA’s presence in Arkansas, in terms of economic development, jobs, access, and tourism, among other things, will be the main focus of the caucus.
Arkansas is home to approximately 180 aviation and aerospace companies, including completion centers for Beechcraft and Dassault. The state is also home to 18 charter flight companies, 43 repair stations, 76 fixed-based operators, and five flight schools that operate 43 aircraft and support 72 jobs.
Yasmina Platt, AOPA’s Central Southwest regional manager, worked with Jett and Hutchinson to create the caucus by gathering statistics on the importance of GA in Arkansas. Some of those numbers include 91 publicly owned/public-use GA and community airports in the state, an economic impact on Arkansas of almost $500 million annually, airports that employ more than 5,400 residents with an annual payroll of $133.4 million, and 5,100 pilots and 3,600 aircraft based in the state.
"It is an honor to be a founding member and co-chair of the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus,” said Jett in a press release. “The caucus can help coordinate support for workforce training and curriculum development for aerospace and aviation jobs through Arkansas’ two- and four-year universities and highlight issues and bills impacting aerospace and aviation industries under consideration by the Arkansas General Assembly."
AOPA will continue to work with the Arkansas Aerospace Alliance as well as other groups to use the caucus to educate legislators about the importance of GA to the state and introduce legislation to grow GA in the state.
Advocacy and Legislation,
AOPA members are being encouraged to contact their representatives in support of a bill that would require the FAA to go through the rulemaking process.
Since Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act on Dec. 11, the pilot community has been abuzz with the possibilities of the bill that would allow pilots to use a driver’s license as a medical certificate for noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats, as long as they carry five or fewer passengers, fly below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots.
During a hastily organized webinar held Dec. 12, the FAA said it will move forward with implementing its new sleep apnea policy despite overwhelming opposition.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.