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AOPA President Phil Boyer joined the sponsors of the General Aviation Small Business Relief Act of 2001 ( H.R.3007) at a Capitol Hill press conference today to announce the introduction of the legislation and to discuss the importance of general aviation to the economy. The legislation, which AOPA assisted in its development, would provide relief to those general aviation businesses damaged by the ground stop that occurred in the wake of the tragic events of September 11. The legislation would require the Small Business Administration to provide grants and loans to small GA businesses that qualify and would defer repayment of loans and interest rates for one year. The bill, which amends the Small Business Act, also extends the due date from any federal excise tax or other federal fees incurred in the course of conducting aviation business activities.
"Today is a wonderful flying day, perfect for VFR flight," said Boyer. "Unfortunately there are still restrictions on this type of flight for general aviation in 28 areas, and there are two areas in which this type of flight is not allowed at all."
Representative Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), the author of H.R.3007, said, "The U.S. Congress has acted swiftly to stabilize the commercial airline industry. Now it is time to help our smaller general aviation businesses." Shuster said his friend, Frank Grazier from Bedford, Pennsylvania, runs a flight service center at the Bedford County Airport, and in the three weeks since the attack he has lost $50,000. "This bill will help Frank and the thousands of others like him get through the near term, so he can make adjustments for the long term to keep the business going."
After the commercial airlines received from Congress a major bailout package on September 21, sponsors of H.R.3007 now feel it is time to provide the much needed relief for general aviation. Representative Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), an AOPA member, said, "The business aviation community of America has been grounded. We've got thousands and thousands of aircraft trapped at these airports." Representative Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), an AOPA member, said, "I am chagrined, dismayed, and upset that GA has been grounded for as long as it has." Representative Nick Lampson (D-Texas), who is also a sponsor of the bill, said, "We have to address the interests of the little guys at the same time we address the interests of the corporate giants."
Stan Rodenhauser, owner and CEO of Freeway Airport Inc., said this legislation will help his company "get back up and make it on our own." Freeway Airport Inc., which he describes as a "mom and pop" business, started in 1947, and since September 11 has taken in no money since all the planes are grounded, losing an estimated $150,000. "General aviation is absolutely the roots of aviation," he said. "Without it there would be no airline pilots. Our segment of aviation is very vital to the economy."
Representative Shuster ended the press conference saying, "I'm going to push very hard to get this bill passed. All of us are going to be out there working for it to go on the agenda."
Other co-sponsors of the legislation that were present at the press conference included AOPA member Representative Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.). The bill now has 15 sponsors.
The Senate is expected to introduce similar legislation in the coming weeks.