Pilots are stepping forward, voicing their opinion of the importance of general aviation, in response to the Sept. 24 USA Today editorial that bashed funding for community airports. AOPA encourages you to share your opinion. Comment on the USA Today editorial or AOPA President Craig Fuller’s rebuttal.
Just a week after USA Today ran a one-sided article generating negative sentiment against general aviation and perpetuating public misconceptions about GA, the newspaper is adding fuel to the fire. This time, it is an editorial. But, this time, USA Today has given AOPA the opportunity to rebut. AOPA President Craig Fuller sets the record straight with the facts. Fuller’s opinion piece is published in its entirety below.
Surveys tell us people view general aviation as an important part of our national transportation system. But, we also know GA is not well understood. It comprises all flying except scheduled airlines and the military. That means law enforcement, firefighting, air ambulance, search and rescue, traffic reporting, package delivery, and more fit under the “general aviation” banner. In short, GA provides services that millions of Americans and thousands of American businesses rely on every day.
Just as highways crisscross the nation, serving small towns and big cities, so the nation’s more than 5,000 public-use airports link communities of all sizes. Commercial air carriers serve fewer than 150 of those airports—that’s like having a highway system that connects only the country’s 150 largest cities.
Just as every driver pays taxes that fund road maintenance and development, so every person who flies pays taxes to maintain the airport and air traffic control system. You may never drive to the tens of thousands of small communities served by our national highway system, and you may never visit thousands of small airports that make up our aviation system. But because those roads, and airports, serve the public good, we all pay a share for their maintenance.
Many public-use airports, large and small, are eligible to receive federal funding for infrastructure maintenance and improvement. In FY 2007, GA airports that received federal grants got an average of $750,000 each. That same year, commercial air carrier airports that received funding got an average of $5.5 million each—more than seven times the amount awarded to smaller fields.
Small airports create jobs and development opportunities, attract businesses and allow them to grow. In fact, GA is responsible for creating some 1.2 million jobs and contributing $150 billion annually to America’s economy.
And general aviation airports relieve congestion and reduce delays at the big air carrier airports. Without them, thousands more flights would crowd into already overburdened airports each day, slowing traffic, increasing delays, and adding to security lines.
A robust general aviation system is a valuable national asset and vital transportation link serving millions of Americans every day. Let’s keep it that way.
Craig L. Fuller
President and CEO
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association