AOPA President Craig Fuller on May 20 complimented Illinois state aviation and airport officials for their support of general aviation as a key component of the state’s transportation system and economy. Speaking at the annual Illinois Aviation Conference sponsored by the Illinois Aviation Trades Association (IATA) in Peoria, Ill., Fuller said the association’s members already understand the key message of AOPA’s GA Serves America Campaign—that GA is vital to the nation’s economic health.
Underscoring the state association’s commitment to preserving GA, IATA President Andy Priester told Fuller that his organization will make a significant financial contribution to GA Serves America to ensure that the message reaches the right people.
Fuller told the group, “All of us in aviation are fortunate to have Illinois' own Congressman Jerry Costello chairing the House Aviation Subcommittee. His understanding and support of general aviation makes a real difference every day on the critical issues we face. We at AOPA are very grateful for his leadership.”
One of those critical issues, Fuller said, is getting nonaviation policymakers to understand GA’s value.
“We recently completed a major research study that included focus groups, surveys, and in-depth interviews with individuals who have significant influence on policies affecting general aviation,” said Fuller. “It should come as no surprise to you that the research confirmed something we strongly suspected—policymakers and the people who influence them aren’t clear about what general aviation is or does.
“I believe that this misunderstanding is at the heart of many of the challenges facing general aviation right now.”
Correcting that misunderstanding has been the guiding principle behind AOPA’s GA Serves America campaign, Fuller told the conference—to help opinion leaders and decision makers see the tremendous value of GA, and to understand the damage a user-fee funded system such as the one envisioned by the Obama Administration would cause.
“Our research has shown that decision makers don’t have any animosity for general aviation, but neither do they see clear reasons to protect it,” said Fuller. “If decision makers realize the true value of general aviation, they will be more likely to act in ways that protect and preserve that value for all Americans.”
The key, Fuller told the conference, will be for GA and those who support it to stand united in the upcoming debate. Speaking with one voice enabled GA to fend off the last administration’s efforts to impose a user fee.
“That kind of cooperation and unity is needed on the national front, so AOPA is reaching out to groups across the entire spectrum of GA activity,” said Fuller. “We believe that by working closely with other associations, including those that represent FBOs and support service providers, business aviation operators, and others, we can significantly improve our chances of overcoming the challenges facing GA today.
“It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this effort,” he concluded. “The combination of challenges facing GA today has the potential to end general aviation as we know it. But even with such overwhelming issues to face, I believe we can prevail if we work together.”