For the first time, general aviation has an organized group of supporters in Congress, and AOPA President Craig Fuller was among the first to speak to them at the inaugural meeting of the House of Representatives’ General Aviation Caucus on May 21.
The caucus, created and co-chaired by Reps. F. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), is made up of pilots, members in whose districts GA figures significantly, and those who want to learn more about GA issues. So Fuller was, as the saying goes, “preaching to the choir.” Still, he used the opportunity to make clear the challenges facing GA from AOPA’s perspective.
Foremost on the list at the moment is dealing with the lack of understanding about the value of GA. “Opinion leaders around the country, while they’ve been exposed to private aircraft, travelled aboard private aircraft, still don’t appreciate or understand all the ways in which general aviation contributes,” said Fuller. “And they don’t understand that when one of the components goes away, when an airport closes, it doesn’t come back. So we are working very hard to try to improve and enhance the understanding of general aviation.”
He explained AOPA’s new campaign, GA Serves America, which is designed to increase understanding of GA. The campaign, he said, “uses our members to tell the story of general aviation … people who fly private aircraft for business.”
Fuller also said AOPA is very concerned about some proposed security regulations. “Thanks to many members of this caucus and a roundtable discussion they held with general aviation stakeholders and the Transportation Security Administration, we have had continuing conversations about the proposed Large Aircraft Security Program and have had a good deal of success in changing the formulation of that program.”
Fuller also stressed the important role that the caucus should play in implementation of the Next Generation Air Traffic Control system, or NextGen.
Finally, he noted that while it appears likely that the caucus and the general aviation industry are going to have to deal with the issue of user fees again, the language in the administration’s budget proposal indicates that it will probably not come up until sometime next year.
Fuller made clear AOPA’s willingness to work with the caucus. “Individually, these members have long been supporters of general aviation,” he said. “But now they speak with a more unified voice.”