George W. Bush and John F. Kerry have taken a stand on general aviation (GA), each promising to protect its interests during the next Presidential term. Both Presidential candidates tout GA's contributions in exclusive coverage in AOPA Pilot magazine's October issue, out this week. Both candidates were questioned on a wide range of topics that affect GA pilots, from protecting airports to funding the air traffic control system to general aviation security.
"Whoever is sitting in the White House after the next inauguration will have a strong influence on decisions that will greatly affect general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These will range from the appointment of an FAA administrator to whether the air traffic system in our country is a government or private service.
"Out on the campaign trail, the candidates are discussing broad issues of foreign and domestic policy. Those are vitally important, but also we want pilots to know where they stand on GA."
Both candidates came out strong in support of GA airports. "General aviation is an important part of our economy, and continued investment in civilian airports is central to our economic growth," said Bush. Kerry said, "I believe that general aviation airports are an integral part of the national airport system. Increased domestic security is now a fact of life, but I think that the government has a responsibility to see that the effect on businesses and individuals is minimized."
Asked about general aviation security, both candidates noted AOPA's Airport Watch. Bush said, "My administration has found that general aviation operators are keenly aware of and willing to individually enhance the security of their operations without government regulation," while Kerry commented, "We can't mandate rules that would stifle economic growth or infringe on civil liberties, but we also need to take common-sense steps to make the security improvements that can help prevent another 9/11."
Preventing the privatization of the air traffic control system and user fees for access are repeatedly listed among AOPA members' highest priorities. Both candidates said they favor the current method of funding using taxes on aviation fuel over a method used in other countries that charges fees based on each component of a flight. On privatization, Bush reiterated FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's statement last year that "the administration has no plans to privatize the air traffic control system." Kerry said, "I oppose privatizing the air traffic control system."
Both candidates have flying experience. Bush has logged flight time as a military pilot while Kerry has a commercial pilot certificate.
"At this point, the 2004 election appears to be as closely divided as the one four years ago," said Boyer. "But because both candidates have logged a lot of flight hours, the one certainty is that the next person to occupy the Oval Office will also know what it's like to sit in the left seat."
Unlike its endorsements for members of the House and Senate, the association does not endorse a Presidential candidate, since the major decisions affecting AOPA members are decided by Congress. A companion story in October's AOPA Pilot lists 13 members of Congress that AOPA considers friends of general aviation and that, based on their voting records on GA issues, the association believes members should consider for reelection.
Representing nearly two thirds of all pilots in the United States, AOPA is the largest, most influential aviation association in the world. AOPA has achieved its prominent position through effective advocacy, enlightened leadership, technical competence, and hard work. Providing member services that range from representation at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, advice, and other assistance, AOPA has built a service organization that far exceeds any other in the aviation community.
AOPA Pilot magazine is the world's largest aviation magazine, featuring insightful articles by aviation professionals, aircraft reviews, and the best aerial photography in print. AOPA Pilot is published monthly and provided free to AOPA's 400,000 members.
September 20, 2004