By Warren McIlvoy
While rarely thought of, small aircraft help support critical aspects of our local infrastructure on an almost daily basis.
Small aircraft help the Salt River Project connect water and power to more than 2 million people throughout central Arizona. With mostly hydroelectric dams located in rural areas throughout the region, the company relies on general aviation to fly engineers and technicians, along with the specialty parts and tools that they need, directly to locations in record time to minimize power loss.
Numerous studies have shown that companies that utilize their own aircraft perform better than those that do not. Businesses of all sizes count on general aviation to get to locations in a time-sensitive manner, meet with customers and make multiple stops in a single day, particularly in regions where access to commercial aviation is limited.
This translates into economic development and job creation for many local communities. The Scottsdale Airpark, the second largest employment center in the state, is a prime example. The airport generates more than $182 million in revenue to the region. Across the state, general aviation has an economic impact of $609 million and is responsible for nearly 7,000 jobs. Nationwide, general aviation accounts for $150 billion in economic activity and more than 1.2 million jobs.
General aviation is also an important asset to the modern public-safety system. Firefighters, emergency-medical responders, law enforcement, search-and-rescue teams, natural-disaster relief crews and non-profit organizations use general aviation every day ensure safety for our communities.
In fact, my organization, Flights for Life, utilizes all of the Valley airports, making 1,200 flights per year to deliver human blood and platelets, all by volunteer pilots. We provide emergency transportation for human blood to replenish hospital reserves on demand, 24 hours a day and 365 days per year. We will soon be accepting the Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award from America’s Blood Centers, North America’s network of non-profit community blood centers.
But recently, some in Washington, D.C., have aimed to score quick political points by targeting these aircraft. Not only would new, punitive taxes on aircraft owners and operators decimate many small businesses throughout our state that are already struggling to recover, but these proposals would have a ripple effect throughout our communities, threatening critical services that connect many of our rural communities.
Fortunately, local elected officials recognize the need to protect general aviation. Gov. Jan Brewer declared Jan. 15 to be Aviation Day. In doing so, she has acknowledged the vital importance of general aviation for businesses and communities throughout the state. In addition, Mayor Chris Gibbs of Safford has joined more than 140 other mayors and town officials in a petition to the President urging his protection of general aviation against new burdensome taxes.