AOPA was among the organizations to participate in the first annual California Aviation Awareness Day at the Capitol April 24. AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager John Pfeifer served on the executive committee organizing the event and the organization helped fund the effort.
The event was significant because it was the first time that a broad spectrum of aviation organizations have come together to host an event to inform state legislators, legislative staff, and the public about the importance of aviation to the welfare of the California economy and to raise the level of awareness of the benefits of aviation to all Californians.
The state is home to 43,000 AOPA members and approximately 60,000 pilots. It has 246 public-use airports, of which 216 are GA-only and 30 offer a mix of commercial and GA service. There are approximately 35,000 FAA-registered aircraft.
The annual economic impact of GA in California is $18 billion, the highest in the United States. The state collects $350 million in annual tax revenue, while the percentage of annual aviation tax revenue returned to support GA airports is less than 2 percent.
The event began with an invitation-only legislative reception on the evening of April 23 at a local restaurant. The reception was well attended by event organizers, sponsors, legislators, and legislative staffs.
The main event took place on the north lawn of the Capitol in a large tent that featured displays and educational materials from 20 aviation organizations, some exhibits provided by the McClellan Air Museum, and opportunities for interaction between organization representatives and attendees.
The event was kicked off with a welcome and remarks by State Sen. Jean Fuller, a strong aviation supporter. In the afternoon, many of the organizers visited their legislators’ offices, and small teams distributed educational materials to the offices of all 120 state legislators.
“AOPA was pleased to partner with other aviation advocates to show legislators the importance of general aviation in California,” said Pfeifer. “It was important to show how GA helps support businesses, farms, emergency response, and the overall economy in the state.” California and Oregon are the only states not to have issued proclamations declaring special months for GA, according to the Alliance for Aviation Across America.
The event’s official sponsor was the Association of California Airports. Other collaborating organizations included the Alliance for Aviation Across America, California Airports Council, California Department of Transportation, California Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, American Association of Airport Executives, Northern California Business Aviation Association, Northern California Business Aviation Association, and Southern California Aviation Association.
Organizers were pleased with the success of the event, and it was estimated that the event hosted around 500 visitors.