General aviation’s willingness to stand up for itself under programs such as the GA Serves America campaign was a key factor in the creation of the House and Senate GA Caucuses, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Craig Fuller said.
Having the industry take a stand helped make it easier for others who have been supportive in the past to do the same, Fuller said. “One of the things I did not expect until I began traveling around Capitol Hill and meeting with members of Congress was the depth of support we actually have there for GA,” he observed. “People sometimes look at one or two incidents or news stories and bash GA. The truth of the matter is that key committee chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction and members of those committees, on a bipartisan basis, are very supportive of GA.”
There are many caucuses on Capitol Hill, Fuller said. “The value of a caucus is you get members of Congress and their staff with a common interest. It doesn’t mean we always agree, but we do have a common interest in a subject area,” he said. “And they stay engaged and involved in it. It’s a partnership.” House GA caucus founder Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) estimates that 80 members have joined the House caucus.
The Senate is a more deliberative body, but it looked at the House caucus and liked the idea so it formed its own, Fuller said. “The caucuses came into play when FAA was ready to announce new rules for VFR flights over the Hudson River in the exclusion area,” he stated. “It was somewhat complicated, but members of Congress and their staff wanted to understand it, so they asked our people, including one who had been involved in the working group, for help, and they convened the caucus.”
The briefing, held jointly for both the House and Senate caucuses, took place right before FAA made its announcement, Fuller said. “[Caucuses] are a place where good information can be passed along outside formal hearings and meetings,” he noted.
Another important consequence was that the caucus became the foundation for a letter sent to President Barack Obama urging him to remove user fee language from the fiscal year 2011 budget, Fuller said (BA, Oct. 12/161). “And that, in my experience, is unique, to have that many members on a bipartisan basis, including [a] key chairman, sending a letter to the President a year before the proposal even gets debated,” he said. “Our legislative team and the legislative teams from other associations have done a really fine job of making our case and building support all year long. I’m really pleased where we’re finishing this year, which will serve us well next year.”
Source: AVIATION WEEK