The launch of AOPA’s GA Serves America Campaign already is gaining momentum in Congress. Reps. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), co-chairs of the General Aviation Caucus, already are speaking out on behalf of GA.
“As a pilot, I have seen firsthand the critical role that general aviation plays in creating jobs and bolstering the local economy in rural communities across America,” said Boyd. “This campaign is an important tool for raising public awareness of general aviation, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to keep general aviation strong.”
Helping members of Congress understand all of the benefits GA provides will be critical to protecting the industry in the face of mounting legislative and regulatory challenges.
“General aviation is an important part of our nation’s transportation system and economy. There are numerous challenges facing general aviation today, and I hope this campaign can help raise awareness about its value,” said Ehlers. “To help enlighten some of my colleagues in Congress, I recently helped form the General Aviation Caucus. This new caucus will highlight general aviation issues on the Hill, and I hope it will help my colleagues recognize the great value of general aviation in each of their districts.”
At a defining moment for general aviation in the United States, AOPA today launched one of the largest, most important campaigns in its 70-year history: General Aviation Serves America.
General aviation is an economic engine that pumps $150 billion into the U.S. economy each year and creates 1.2 million jobs. Yet GA faces challenges from several directions which could cause much, if not all, of that economic activity to dry up. GA Serves America is an AOPA-sponsored educational initiative whose goal is to protect our valuable asset by educating policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public about the economic value of GA to all Americans, whether they fly or not.
“General aviation is so often defined for what we’re not,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller in a Washington, D.C., press conference. “We’re talked about as not being military aviation or not being commercial aviation. And … that’s got to stop. We have to begin to define who we are and what we do and our value across the country.”
“It’s up to us to define ourselves,” he said. “It’s up to us to tell our story.”
The launch featured the first round of advertisements in the GA Serves America campaign, which includes the stories of people who rely on general aviation every day: from a doctor who can only get to his island resident patients by air to award-winning actor and avid pilot Harrison Ford, who volunteered his services to support the cause.
Fuller noted that support for GA extends to the halls of Congress, adding that Reps. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), co-chairs of the General Aviation Caucus, have spoken out in support of the GA Serves America campaign. The new caucus will highlight GA issues on Capitol Hill, helping members of Congress understand the value of GA to their district.
“Businesses large and small use GA to effectively move people, products, and equipment to places that simply couldn’t be reached by other means,” Fuller said. “GA is vital to law enforcement, to emergency medical services, agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, and disaster relief. And for many rural and isolated areas, GA can literally be a lifeline, bringing everything from medical care to food to the people who live there.”
The campaign comes at a critical time because GA is under tremendous pressure from legislators and regulators. The Obama administration has proposed a change to the way the FAA is funded to raise $7.5 billion, either through direct user charges or dramatic increases in the taxes GA pays, starting in October 2011.
At the same time, onerous and ill-conceived security regulations are threatening to strangle GA. Proposed reductions in the General Fund contribution to the FAA could weaken support for community airports—a support already undermined by urban sprawl, with some local governments seeking to replace airports with residential development.
Adding to GA’s burdens is an increasingly negative public perception of general aviation as “jets for the rich,” which reflects a widespread lack of understanding about the role of GA.
“I don’t believe that the people making the decisions about our transportation system want to cripple general aviation,” Fuller said. “They aren’t looking to take away more than a million jobs or take away billions of dollars from the economy. They simply don’t realize all that general aviation contributes to America.”
AOPA’s campaign will help correct the lack of understanding about the myriad ways GA contributes to the nation’s communities, transportation system, and economy by telling the stories of ordinary people. To help spread the word, visit the GA Serves America Web site and share your story. If you’d like to help support AOPA’s education and advocacy effort with a donation, please contribute to the GA Serves America Fund.