By Benet J Wilson
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee’s aviation subcommittee, was tapped as the 2012 recipient of AOPA’s Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft Jr. Award Oct. 12 for his tireless work on behalf of general aviation in Congress. The Hartranft Award, one of AOPA’s two highest honors, is presented annually to an elected or appointed government official who has made significant contributions to the advancement of GA.
“As a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, Senator Thune has gone on the record twice opposing user fees,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “He also joined 25 other senators in signing a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing concern regarding the Block Aircraft Registration Request. All of us who use general aviation appreciate his strong support on Capitol Hill.”
Thune also spearheaded a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the FAA signed by 26 other senators urging the agencies not to use the rulemaking process to force the elimination of lead from aviation fuel before a suitable replacement is found. The letter also asked both agencies to work with the GA community to find an alternative to leaded avgas.
The senator joined 32 others in sending a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission asking the commission to rescind wireless network operator LightSquared’s approval to expand until the company can demonstrate that its technology would not interfere with GPS reception. Thune was also an original co-sponsor of the Senate Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which became law in August.
“As a regular user of general aviation, Senator Thune understands how vital the industry is not only for his home state of South Dakota, but for the rest of the United States as well,” concluded Fuller. “His work on behalf of general aviation epitomizes what defines a Hartranft Award winner.”