Throughout our vast state, it is often a challenge for businesses to get from one location to another, forcing us to spend hours on the road or thousands of dollars on commercial air travel.
In the case of my business, which roasts and distributes coffee, we have to travel frequently throughout the inland northwest to meet with customers, delivering products and everything from servicing vending machines and fixing equipment. The purchase of a small airplane for my business has helped tremendously, making it possible for me to get from point to point quickly, allowing me to meet with my employees quickly, easily transport tools and demonstration materials to any one of the 120 or more communities around the state that are close to an airport, and even letting me get beautiful panoramic photographs for labels in the areas where I sell coffee. Being able to meet with my employees in their area is a great asset by the way of quick travel time.
My story is not unique; countless other small business owners, especially in rural areas, rely on general aviation as a tool to increase overall productivity and to do what they otherwise would not be able to do. This added value for businesses, according to state figures, creates an estimated economic impact of $429 million every year and supports more than 4,000 jobs in Idaho. Across the country, general aviation is responsible for $150 million in economic activity annually and supports more than 1.2 million jobs.
But general aviation is not only an economic asset. The versatility that makes general aviation such a vital tool for businesses also makes it a great resource for public safety. Idaho citizens are safer because of the services of groups such as Air Idaho Rescue. Specialized care for certain patients is often too far away from their home or community hospital. Air Idaho Rescue allows these patients to get the care they need in emergency situations and when time is critical.
This general aviation service can reach the back country by which normal means would take hours to reach. Just recently, a friend contacted me by way of satellite phone in the wilderness area of Idaho that they needed medical supplies. This location is 5800 elevation and at 85 degrees it would be hours before they could get out due to density altitude. I picked up the supplies and flew it in and the young man was taken care of by 3 p.m.
General aviation also played a crucial role in fighting the 2012 Mustang Complex Fire. Each year, helicopters and air tankers help control the fires that blaze through our forests, threaten our wildlife, homes and citizens. With anticipation of an especially difficult 2013 fire season, such services will be critical in keeping Idaho safe and helping our law enforcement and firefighters do their job effectively.
Even with the countless benefits and services provided by general aviation, some in Washington, DC have proposed a $100-per-flight “user fee” tax on every take-off and landing for many businesses, farmers and groups that use turbine aircraft. This would mean endless fees upon fees for businesses like mine that make many take-offs and landings and needless bureaucracy. Others have proposed shortening the depreciation schedule for the purchase of a new business aircraft, dis-incentivizing businesses like mine from investing in this critical tool.
Luckily, many of our local leaders, such as Governor Butch Otter and Mayor Leo Marshall of Salmon, ID recognize the critical benefits of general aviation and community airports for our state. As part of these efforts, Governor Butch Otter has declared June General Aviation Appreciation Month.
These efforts by the Governor and others should be applauded and I hope will encourage others in Idaho and around the country to send a strong message to others to protect this important economic driver and lifeline to rural communities around the nation.
Tom Boyer is a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.