Gallup reported today that Congress’ approval rating has dropped to 14 percent, the lowest figure in four decades of polling. The recent battles over the budget and health care are driving the public’s exasperation with the House and Senate, and rightly so. But pilots shouldn’t be so quick to criticize. Never have we enjoyed a more pro-general-aviation Congress – even if it didn’t seem like it when the government shutdown inadvertently closed the FAA aircraft registration office for 16 days in October.
If we ignore that misstep and look at all the good Congress has done for the aviation community recently, the record is quite encouraging. First there was the Pilots Bill of Rights championed by Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma that ensures pilots receive fairer treatment in FAA enforcement actions. Then there was the Small Airplane Revitalization Act introduced by Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo that sets a timetable for the FAA to adopt its rewrite of Part 23 aircraft certification rules. These laws have been followed by new bills aimed at slowing the adoption of the FAA’s controversial sleep apena policy for pilots and putting the driver’s license medical proposal on a fast track.
We can point to the creation of the House and Senate General Aviation Caucuses, which were formed in 2009 to inform politicians about important aviation issues, for turning the situation around. Incredibly, 260 members of Congress representing an even mix of Republicans and Democrats have signed on as members of the Caucuses. They receive their intelligence from the organizations entrusted with protecting general aviation, namely AOPA, EAA, NBAA and GAMA – in other words, we the pilots.
I shudder to think where we would be as a community without the GA coalitions in Congress. Among aviators, the polling numbers would probably be as abysmally low as they are with the general public. Thanks to the creation of an open communication pathway and a serious and honest acknowledgement about the importance of general aviation to the economy and the country shared by hundreds of members of Congress, GA has never been in a stronger position politically than it is right now.
In an era marked by deep political dissatisfaction, that’s quite remarakable.