Educating elected officials and other decision makers about aviation’s benefits is a task that never ends for general aviation’s advocates. Yasmina Platt, AOPA Central/Southwest regional manager, was hard at work pursuing that goal in Kansas and New Mexico recently. She shared the big picture of aviation’s impact on the region, and encouraged new initiatives including the creation of an aviation caucus in the Kansas legislature, and a bill to protect a key funding source for aviation in New Mexico.
Aviation Day events held recently in both states’ capitols, organized by state departments of transportation in cooperation with educational groups and industry organizations, provided opportunities to distribute information about aviation’s impact on state economies and generate support for ways to strengthen the industry.
On Feb. 3, the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Office and the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education organized Kansas Aviation Day at the Capitol, which was held on the first floor rotunda of the Capitol in Topeka.
New Mexico’s Aviation Day at the Capitol in Santa Fe was Jan. 22. The event was organized by the New Mexico Airport Managers Association and the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, and was attended by many state aviation organizations and businesses.
During the Kansas session, Platt met with four legislators, all pilots, to discuss general aviation in the state and create a framework for a GA caucus or aviation subcommittee to advance aviation’s interests and concerns in cooperation with state aviation officials.
“In either case, the idea is the same: to focus a bipartisan group of legislators on general aviation issues, take them on field trips to ATC facilities, aircraft manufacturers, airports; have them join the annual Kansas Air Tour; give them presentations on different GA topics; and focus them on legislation we would like to improve,” Platt said.
The lawmakers who joined the discussion included State Rep. John Carmichael (D-District 92), an attorney and AOPA member; Rep. Tom Moxley (R-District 68), a private pilot since 2010 and turbo Cessna 182 owner and airstrip owner; Rep. Dick Jones, (R-District 52), a retired Navy veteran who enjoys flying a Cessna 152; and House Assistant Majority Leader Mario Goico (R-District 94), an airline transport pilot with experience flying KC-135 tanker aircraft and doing production testing for Cessna.
Platt also met with other legislators, Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King, Philip Billard Municipal Airport of Topeka’s Airport Support Network volunteer Tim Vice, and other AOPA members.
New Mexico’s Aviation Day emphasized educating legislators about general aviation “including the jobs, safety, tourism and revenue, and mobility it provides for the citizens of New Mexico,” Platt said, citing a fact sheet she distributed about the industry’s many benefits.
In her contacts and a subsequent letter, Platt urged passage of House Bill 242. The measure, which has passed the House and been referred to the Senate, would make the existing 0.046-percent contribution from the gross receipts tax to the state aviation trust fund permanent. It is currently scheduled to expire on June 30, 2018.
“This funding is used for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) projects by way of state-only grants and 10-percent matches state/local governments have to commit to leverage 90-percent grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It specifically contributes to program administration, planning, construction, equipment, materials and maintenance of a system of 59 public-own, public-use airports, navigation aids, and related facilities,” she wrote.