AOPA President Phil Boyer this week helped educate Southern California business people and local/regional government officials on the value of general aviation to their communities. The event was initiated by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce as part of the overall transportation initiatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As a featured speaker at the first Southern California Aviation Summit, Boyer asked the audience to think beyond airline service when it comes to aviation.
"Through the miracle of general aviation, I can give this speech this morning and still be home for dinner tonight," Boyer said. "I couldn't possibly do that on the airlines."
And he chided the members of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and other participants for thinking of only the airports in the "Inland Empire" (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) with commercial air service.
He highlighted all of the area airports on an aerial photograph and explained that each of those airports is like an exit ramp from the interstate to their communities. "You wouldn't give up an off-ramp," he said. "Your community airport is even more valuable."
Boyer noted that general aviation has a significant positive economic contribution to communities with airports, and that GA generates some $150 billion in economic activity and 1.3 million jobs nationally.
He explained the threat posed by the administration's FAA funding proposal that would radically increase general aviation fuel taxes and create new user fees outside of congressional control.
He pointed out that nine out of 10 GA pilots have told AOPA they will fly significantly less if fuel taxes are increased to 70 cents a gallon - that would affect businesses and jobs in the Inland Empire.
And he told the audience that the proposal would be bad for airline passengers as well.
"The proposal would reduce the airlines' contributions toward FAA operating costs by nearly $2 billion a year," said Boyer, "but we know from past experience that airline passengers wouldn't see any savings.
"And because the proposal gives the airlines and the FAA unfettered ability to increase fees to cover FAA cost overruns, airline passengers will ultimately pay a lot more."
The evening before the chamber speech, Boyer took advantage of the Southern California location - a mecca for pilots - and hosted his first Pilot Town Meeting of the year to more than 300 area aviation enthusiasts.
March 29, 2007