General aviation delivers jobs, but user fees, unfunded mandates, and poor regulation can stifle growth, AOPA President Mark Baker told the House Committee on Small Business during an Oct. 3 roundtable event. Government needs to work with the GA community to help aviation, and the small businesses it supports, thrive, he said.
The event was organized by Committee Chairman Congressman Sam Graves (R-Missouri), who also co-chairs the House General Aviation Caucus. Other congressional participants included Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who chairs the House aviation subcommittee.
During his remarks, Baker warned that continued attempts to impose a $100-per-flight user fee on aviation could cripple GA and damage the thousands of small businesses nationwide that depend directly and indirectly on flying.
At the same time, he said, general aviation is heavily regulated; but many of those regulations come in the form of unfunded mandates, like the current proposal to ban 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) and force operators to equip with 406 MHz ELTs. That proposal would cost aircraft operators somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million but wouldn’t deliver any new safety benefits. To make matters worse, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment required by 2020 as part of NextGen modernization would make the new ELTs obsolete—essentially forcing aircraft owners to re-equip twice in just seven years.
But, Baker noted, there are many opportunities for government to work with the GA community to support GA and the jobs it creates. By opening access to airports to allow the public to connect with aviation and approving the AOPA-Experimental Aircraft Association petition to expand the driver’s license medical standard, government could save money and help create the next generation of pilots.
GA is of special importance to small businesses, with an estimated 65 percent of all GA flights conducted for business and public services. Additionally, the Small Business Administration has estimated that approximately 94 percent of the firms that provide cargo and passenger air transportation services are small businesses, as are 90 percent of businesses involved in the development and manufacture of aircraft and parts. Those numbers say nothing of the thousands of businesses that use GA to move people and products, expand to new markets, and provide customer service.
Other participants in the roundtable included representatives from EAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), the International Council of Air Shows, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).