By AOPA ePublishing staff
January 25, 2011
The strength of the congressional general aviation caucuses – which provides a venue for members of Congress to learn more about GA – helped the industry resist a White House user fee proposal and onerous regulations. Now, with close to 100 newly elected members in the House, leaders of the House GA Caucus are rebuilding the caucus – and AOPA members can help.
Since the caucus was founded in 2009, it grew to 125 members, one of the largest caucuses in the House. As they take over leadership of the caucus, new co-chairs Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) are recruiting members to re-establish the caucus, circulating a letter explaining the value of GA and inviting their colleagues to join the caucus to learn more.
“There are more than 223,000 active GA aircraft in the United States, which serve nearly 19,000 small and regional airports – many more than the 500 commercial airports in the U.S.,” they wrote. “These airports help connect people and industries that do not always have easy access to our commercial airports.” They went on to explain that GA contributes more than $150 billion to the U.S. economy annually and is one of the few remaining U.S. manufacturing industries that provides a trade surplus for the United States.
Widespread understanding of GA in Congress contributed to a number of successes for the industry. But 38 members of the caucus did not return to the House in 2011, including former co-chairs Reps. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.). GA supporters are faced with the same challenge they faced at the creation of the caucus – educating members of Congress about the economic contributions of GA.
“In some respects, we’re starting over,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. “Many new members of Congress are unfamiliar with general aviation and its contributions to the nation, so it is important to help them understand the economic footprint of general aviation, the jobs it creates, and the jobs it maintains. Congressmen Graves and Barrow have started out strong as the new leaders of the caucus.”
Pilots and aircraft owners can help the caucus grow by contacting their representatives and encouraging them to join the GA Caucus. Members of Congress can join the caucus by contacting Mike Matousek (with Graves) at 202/225-7041 or by e-mail or Brandon Webb (with Barrow) at 202/225-2823 or by e-mail.