A gathering of state lawmakers and key participants in the local aviation industry marked the first meeting of Maine’s new legislative Aviation Caucus at the Statehouse in Augusta.
AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins attended the organization’s initial session along with 12 lawmakers and about 10 business representatives on Feb. 28. A second meeting is planned for later in March.
AOPA coordinated with the Maine Aviation Business Association to meet with aviation-friendly legislators from across the state “to bring together like-minded people who recognize that Maine’s airports and aviation industry are vital to sustaining the predominantly rural state’s economic engine,” he said.
“Establishing an Aviation Caucus is a means toward promoting and protecting the local aviation industry,” Collins said. “It is an open educational forum for legislators to hear from industry leaders on policies that have helped, and to focus on areas where additional attention is needed to help companies continue to create jobs and produce revenue for the state while protecting the economic engine of local airports.”
Speakers addressing the theme, “Economic Impact of Maine’s Aviation Industry” included Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, based at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station now operating as Brunswick Executive Airport; Patrick McGowan, president of PK Floats, based at Lincoln Regional Airport; and Chris Kilgour, founder and CEO of C&L Aerospace, at Bangor International Airport.
Lawmakers instrumental in bringing the aviation caucus to operational status included Sens. David Miramant (D-District 12), Dawn Hill (D-District 35), and Andre Cushing (R-District 10), and state Reps. Bettyann Sheats (D-District 64), Jeff Timberlake (R -District 75), and Matthew Pouliot (R-District 86).
Miramant is a retired airline pilot who operates the seasonal Spirit Soaring Glider Rides at Knox County Regional Airport with a Grob 109 motor glider. He said he hopes the caucus can help inform people of the value of their local airports to the community in areas from drawing businesses to the region to expanding career opportunities to residents by offering pilot training locally.
Hill, Timberlake, Sheats, and Pouliot hold various pilot certificates. Cushing was the sponsor of a key 2013 aircraft sales and maintenance tax exemption bill that “eliminated a competitive disadvantage for the geographically speaking ‘end of the line’ state,” Collins said.
The next meeting of Maine’s legislative Aviation Caucus is scheduled for March 23.