In rural communities, access to specialized medical care can be limited. Many patients seeking surgeries or treatments must drive far to receive the care they need, and when someone is in pain, facing mobility issues or an inability to work, time is precious. That is where the use of general aviation comes into play. All across Wyoming, general aviation or small aircraft assist healthcare providers and clinics, allowing us to help patients and communities in need.
I am a pilot for Thunder Basin Orthopaedics, which specializes in sports medicine, joint replacements, bone fractures and treating other traumatic injuries. I have witnessed firsthand just how critical small aircraft can be. With the use of a plane, doctors, surgeons and healthcare specialists are able to make the most efficient use of their time and provide vital treatments and consultations for individuals in need. We fly four days a week to different branches and communities across Wyoming. In the past, doctors would often drive 11-12 hours a week to reach different hospitals across the state. With the plane, doctors can quickly reach locations and arrive refreshed and ready for the tasks at hand. It is truly a win-win situation for the clinic and communities throughout our state.
General aviation does more than serve our state’s health care providers; it is an essential tool for many businesses and farms in the state. These aircraft help companies quickly reach their clients, manage multiple job sites and transport staff and equipment in and out of the state. State agriculture also depends heavily on general aviation and our network of airports for aerial crop spraying as well. All told, general aviation contributes over $73 million to our state’s economy.
Still, many are unfortunately still unaware of the important contributions of these aircraft – some have even proposed to take away Congressional oversight over these airports and aircraft and institute user fee taxes on the businesses, farms and communities that depend on these aircraft. General aviation pilots currently pay using a fuel tax system, which is fair, easy to use and proportionate to usage.
I am pleased that, earlier this year, Gov. Matthew Mead declared June 2015 “General Aviation Appreciation Month,” and I hope we can build on the awareness of this proclamation and continue to highlight the important role of these aircraft and airports for our state and country.
Cranleigh Wilkinson is a pilot for Thunder Basin Orthopaedics and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.