AOPA President Craig Fuller this week held two days of meetings with nearly a dozen members of Congress and administration officials who hold sway over U.S. aviation policy.
“The poor state of the economy is as big a factor for general aviation as it is for the country at large,” said Fuller. “It is vital that Congress understand that pilots and the aircraft they fly are important to the economy. Federal investments and policies should expand opportunities for businesses to use general aviation.”
On Feb. 3 and 4, Fuller met with congressmen from aviation and security committees whose actions directly affect aviation in America, from FAA funding to aviation security to the environment.
The meetings were to introduce Fuller as the new president of the world’s largest aviation association and explain some of AOPA’s top issues in 2009, such as FAA funding, aviation’s place in the economic stimulus package, and concerns over efforts to impose airline-like security requirements on general aviation. Several of the members with whom Fuller met are pilots and AOPA members, and so understand the issues facing general aviation.
On Feb. 4, Fuller also joined leaders from all facets of the aviation industry for a meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss how stimulus spending targeted at the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System, known as NextGen, could have nearly immediate benefits for both the economy and aviation system.
Fuller told LaHood that the country will get more for its money if the government invests now in one of NextGen’s key components, known as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B.
“Federal dollars invested now in ADS-B avionics for general aviation aircraft are worth more than those investments will be in the future,” said Fuller.
Fuller also told LaHood that the transition to NextGen and a satellite-based navigation system is the direction the country needs to move in, but that the process needs more careful oversight. AOPA has argued that pilots are more likely to equip quickly if they can see clear benefits. The FAA’s current implementation plan imposes significant cost while providing little, if any, benefit to the pilot.