June 15, 2011 By Jonathan Grass
For its fourth anniversary, the Alliance for Aviation Across America has highlighted milestones in general aviation research.
Founded in 2007, the Alliance has worked in research and raising awareness for general aviation, an issue those connected to it say is an important one in Alaska’s economy.
Executive Director Selena Shilad described the term “general aviation” as that which deals in non-scheduled, non-cargo flights, such as those involved in medical transports, law enforcement, disaster relief, flight schools and others.
“As co-founder of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, I am extremely proud the caucus has grown to 34 members and acted to increase awareness about the critical importance of general aviation to our economy and our country,” Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, stated in a release. “With six times more pilots per capita than the rest of the country, general aviation is the lifeblood of Alaska and it’s fitting that Alaska was one of the first states to pass a proclamation recognizing its importance. The Alliance deserves recognition for their work to raise the profile of general aviation and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to promote an industry which generates over $150 billion in economic activity annually.”
A 2006 wide-scale economic survey by Merge Global, General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association and National Association of State Aviation Officials showed general aviation had an economic impact of $700 million in Alaska. Other data included 9,944 jobs connected to general aviation, 11,253 pilots, 11,030 aircraft and 407 airports. That survey also noted that 82 percent of communities are not served by roads.
Shilad said the Alliance is working on getting more updated data.
The Alaska Department of Transportation’s 2009 data gives more current aviation information, however, it is not specific to general aviation. Such data states Alaska has the largest aviation system nationwide with six times as many pilots per capita and 16 times as many aircraft per capita. The Alaska Department of Transportation places the count at 298 public access airports and 253 rural airports owned by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Alaska Aviation contributes $3.5 billion to the Alaska economy and 47,000 (about 10 percent) of all jobs here. It also concurs that 82 percent are not served by roads.
Part of the Alliance’s goal is to raise awareness among lawmakers about general aviation, something they say can often be under-recognized or overlooked. It also works on research on flight training and surveying land and aerial applications used in agriculture.
One of the highlights of this anniversary is that 29 states have passed proclamations on this, including Alaska, which passed one proclaiming March 2010 “General Aviation Month.”
Shilad states in the release, “It is extremely significant that over half of the states in the country have passed proclamations highlighting the importance of aviation. We commend our partners at the state and local level, as well as members of Congress, for such significant progress in raising awareness about immense value of general aviation, particularly for small towns and rural communities around the nation. We look forward to working with aviation and non-aviation groups and individuals alike to raise awareness about this crucial lifeline and economic generator for our nation.”
Begich supports the Alliance’s efforts to raise awareness about such aviation’s economic role, saying it’s especially important here because of the limited road infrastructure. Shilad said Alaska was one of first states to pass a proclamation on general aviation.
“It’s very relevant to Alaska because there’s still a lack of awareness, including in Washington, D.C., on what it means to these communities, particularly for more rural areas,” she said. “Folks across the country don’t realize that importance.”
Neil Ritchie, President of the League of Rural Voters, also commented on Alaska’s role in this field, saying elected officials and Alaska businesses must understand its need for the great distances between communities. He called general aviation the “lifeblood of rural America.”
Alliance for Aviation Across America has grown to more than 5,700 member organizations and individuals, including non-aviation related members, since 2007.
Source: JUNEAU EMPIRE