National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen and General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce believe business aviation is in a stronger position heading into debate on the next FAA reauthorization bill thanks to a concentrated effort by industry to educate lawmakers and the general public on the important role the industry plays in the national economy.
The House General Aviation Caucus has become the largest in Congress, with 254 members, while the Senate caucus has grown to 40 members. At the same time, governors from all 50 states – even California, which a year ago had been the lone holdout – have passed proclamations recognizing the value of business aviation.
But Bolen and Bunce caution that the industry must continue its educational campaign as the elections bring in a new Congress and as the debate over the reauthorization bill kicks into full gear next year with the looming September 30, 2015, expiration of the FAA’s current authorization.
When the industry was soaring to new heights in the mid-2000s, it did not push its message of value and philanthropy vigilantly, “and we paid a price,” Bunce says. By the late 2000s, negative rhetoric about the industry had picked up and user-fee proposal had come to the forefront.
Five years ago, NBAA and GAMA relaunched the No Plane No Gain campaign, reenergizing the educational effort. Rallies have been held around the country, and efforts at the local levels led to both state and local proclamations that have gained the attention of leaders in Washington.
“Our efforts to make our voice heard in Washington must and will continue,” Bolen says. “That’s because the policy challenges we face will continue to come up.”
Bolen warns of challenges on the horizon, including issues related to ADS-B equipage, bonus depreciation and Ex-Im Bank. NextGen and FAA funding likely will come to the forefront during the debate over FAA reauthorization next year.
Addressing the opening general session here, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) promised that reauthorization would be a central focus of his committee next year. But he urges the industry to “think bigger than FAA reauthorization.” The bill, he says needs to be “transformational.”
Shuster expects the debate will cover the need to ease the regulatory burden on aviation and make the interpretation of regulations more consistent. He also sees the need to push back on proposals to tax emissions. He further believes questions will surface over whether the FAA is properly organized to finish NextGen, and whether the U.S. can learn from other countries.
The debate must be collaborative, he stresses, noting that the last reauthorization took three years and 23 extensions to pass. “I don’t think anyone wants to see that happen again,” he says. While acknowledging the different interests of the different factions of aviation, he says industry and lawmakers must focus on the common ground.
In the committee, leaders have already begun reauthorization conversations. Shuster says he’s brought to the table two key leaders for these discussions, House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-New Jersey) and House General Aviation Caucus Co-Chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri). LoBiondo, Shuster notes has a good relationship with labor groups, while Graves “is the voice of general aviation in Congress.”
This is important, Shuster says, because “labor knows it is going to be heard, and general aviation knows it is going to be heard.”