General aviation and its contributions to the United States are often misunderstood or unknown, and actor, pilot, and GA advocate Harrison Ford told members of the Senate General Aviation Caucus that he is going to do his part to bring the community's efforts to the public's attention.
“It really has brought great value to my life, and I'm very grateful for the experience and I'm very happy to have the opportunity to represent the interests of the general aviation community,” Ford told 12 members of the Senate GA Caucus during a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., Oct. 18. Ford came to aviation later in life, only flying for the past 15 years. However, in that time, he's used aviation to inspire youth through the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program, participate in the 2010 Special Olympics Airlift to Lincoln, Neb., and transport supplies to Haiti after the devastating earthquake last year. Ford also has received the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
Caucus co-chairs Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) kicked off the session explaining that GA isn't a luxury and in some cases is often a necessity. The lack of understanding of the role GA plays in the United States has placed it in jeopardy, they said.
“General aviation is in peril at times,” Begich said, naming threats like the proposed $100-per-flight user fee, a proposal that would hurt business jet depreciation schedules, a lack of privacy causing flight information to be publicly available in real-time status, and a four-year lack of long-term FAA funding.
Johanns and Ford echoed Begich's remarks. Johanns added that the caucus is one of the largest and most active in the Senate, and was formed to give GA a boost and help educate others on its values. He said GA “could not have gotten a better boost than to have Harrison Ford step up and be not only a spokesperson in this area but to be a very active one.” Ford has participated in several meetings in Washington, D.C., that have focused on GA.
AOPA President Craig Fuller attended the roundtable and applauded Ford for his passionate involvement in advocacy for GA.
“Wherever he goes, Harrison wins attention and support for general aviation, making him one of our most effective advocates,” Fuller wrote in his blog about the event. “He has given freely of his time and talent to protect our freedom to fly through the GA Serves America campaign and in countless other ways. His generosity and dedication are without equal, and I, for one, am grateful for his support.”
Joining Begich and Johanns at the roundtable were Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), as well as Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), co-chairman of the House GA Caucus.