A dollar of state funds will sometimes get you nine more from Uncle Sam if you can win over policymakers for investing in their states’ aviation system.
That’s an attention-getting return on investment—one that members of the New York Aviation Management Association, including AOPA, emphasized to state legislators and staff at an annual Advocacy Day event at the state Capitol in Albany.
This year, his visit took on an added dimension as he shared details of the AOPA You Can Fly program’s High School Initiative to promote aviation education and career awareness.
“This event was an opportunity to promote AOPA’s aviation-themed science, technology, engineering, and math, or 'STEM' high school curriculum,” he said.
With the aviation industry’s forecast demand for pilots growing at a time when the FAA is issuing far fewer pilot certificates than it did 30 or 40 years ago, big opportunities await students who have the skills and the passion to embrace aviation as a career.
Connecting with those opportunities is no sure thing, however—so AOPA has developed a set of comprehensive four-year aviation study options aligned to rigorous math and science standards used in many states nationwide.
The free, innovative courses lead into three four-year career pathways: pilot, unmanned aircraft systems (drones), and aerospace engineering. High schools can decide to implement one or more complete pathways or select individual courses to use as standalone electives.
The ninth-grade courses are being implemented during the 2018-19 school year after having been tested with 700 students in 30 schools over the past 12 months. Additional grade levels will be available in the years ahead.
“AOPA invites high schools to apply to use the ninth-grade courses that we have developed,” Collins said, noting that the application deadline is April 19.
With the career opportunities apparent and growing, AOPA is supporting a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-33rd District), an attorney, entrepreneur, and private pilot, to establish a task force “to study how to incentivize individuals in the state of New York to become pilots.” Vanel founded the New York Metro chapter of the Black Pilots of America Inc., an organization that “trains and exposes the community and youth to the field of aviation,” according to his official page on the New York State Assembly’s website.
Advocates made contact with 99 legislators or their staff representatives for discussions that focused on ways to strengthen aviation-related state budget priories.
With legislative and executive-branch budget outlines holding appropriations for aviation at or below the previous year’s $22.5 million level—which led to the funding of only 29 of 71 proposed projects—Collins urged increasing the state’s Aviation Capital Infrastructure grant program to $40 million annually, which could fund almost all the capital projects, he said.
By fully funding the state’s $6-million match of FAA Airport Improvement Program grants, New York State could bring in $9 of federal funds for every state dollar invested. “In recent years, it’s only been funded at $4 million, with the additional $2 million pulled in from the State Capital Grant program,” Collins said.
AOPA and NYAMA believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition, that made about $200 million available for accelerating development of commercial and cargo-service airports, was a success warranting “a return of a similar style program to award dedicated funding for transformational infrastructure projects at various upstate airports,” he said.
Collins encouraged AOPA members to build on the contacts that aviation advocates make at Advocacy Day events by expressing their support for improvements for the state aviation system to their state lawmakers and by proclaiming the value of their community airports.
“Working and supporting local and state airport and aviation associations is how AOPA can have the greatest impact on local issues,” he said.
The You Can Fly program is entirely funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate.