AOPA: Pretty Well, Actually
General aviation fared
very well in the 2004 Congressional elections, with Ninety-six
percent of the 104 members backed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association Political Action Committee (AOPA PAC) won their races.
Fourteen of 18 AOPA members who were running for Congress won their
"Who controls the executive branch is important, of course, but
over the long term, it is Congress that sets the course for
aviation through legislation and control of the purse strings,"
said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA's friends and contacts remain
in the top positions on the four congressional committees key to
general aviation – in the Senate, the Commerce and
Appropriations committees, and in the House, the Appropriations
Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee."
A key race was the hotly contested battle between Senate
Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and former Congressman John
Both have been strong advocates for general aviation during
their time in Congress. Thune narrowly defeated Daschle.
Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN,
right), an AOPA member, was not up for re-election and retains his
position as majority leader of the Senate. Through his power to
schedule the executive and legislative business of the Senate, he
has control over what bills come to the floor for a vote.
For GA, the important change is in the Senate, where Alaska Sen.
Ted Stevens, who was not up for reelection on Tuesday, takes over
chairmanship of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
from Arizona's John McCain.
The committee sets policy for the FAA, telling it what programs
to pursue and setting the overall budget for the agency. McCain has
never seen eye-to-eye with AOPA on user fees for general
"Senator Stevens is a strong and forceful friend to general
aviation, representing a state where GA directly touches almost
every resident. He is known for his effectiveness as a lawmaker and
his adherence to principle," said AOPA Vice President of
Legislative Affairs Jon Hixson. "He'll guide the committee with a
firm hand. " Stevens is a highly decorated World War II aviator and
pilot. He won AOPA's Hartranft Award in 1996, and is the President
Pro Tempore of the Senate, making him third in line for the
presidency. The Hartranft Award is given to the elected or
appointed government official who has done the most for general
aviation in the preceding year.
Two senators who have
been very supportive of GA will sit on the transportation
subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Subcommittee
Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL, right) and ranking member Patty
Murray (D-WA) both won reelection on Tuesday. Shelby has sponsored
funding measures important to GA, while Murray was particularly
helpful in turning back Defense Department requests for restricted
airspace over Puget Sound.
On the House side, the leadership of the committees important to
GA will remain essentially unchanged.
"Consistency is the word to characterize what we expect from the
House," said Hixson. "The people we know and with whom we have
long-established relationships will likely continue in key
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) easily won re-election and is expected to
return as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, the House committee that sets the course for the FAA. He
received this year's Hartranft Award from AOPA for his strong
efforts in passing Vision 100, the FAA funding bill; his fight
against user fees and ATC privatization; legislation to prevent
another Meigs debacle; and other measures important to AOPA
members. Young is a pilot from Alaska, and like Sen. Stevens,
understands the great value of general aviation to the country.
The ranking member of that committee, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN),
another friend to AOPA and GA, also returns to Congress. In recent
years he has become intimately familiar with the importance of
general aviation to job creation: Cirrus Design builds its
airplanes in Duluth, which is in his district.
John Mica (R-FL, right)
will remain chair of the aviation subcommittee -– the forum
for public debate and frequent AOPA testimony on critical aviation
issues such as airspace access, the Meigs legacy rule, and the
airport improvement grant program. He ran unopposed in Tuesday's
election. Mica is joined on the subcommittee by ranking member
Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who won reelection on Tuesday. Both are
friends to general aviation. AOPA members returning to the aviation
subcommittee include Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Chris Chocola
(R-IN), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Sam Graves (R-MO), Robin Hayes (R-NC),
Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Denny Rehberg (R-MT).
The chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee – the
committee responsible for funding federal agencies and programs
– will change because of term limits. But Rep. Ernest Istook
(R-OK), who has been a strong supporter of FAA funding for aviation
fuel research and is a key leader in supporting modernization of
the ATC system, won reelection and will likely return as chairman
of the transportation subcommittee. And another friend of general
aviation, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who chairs the homeland security
subcommittee, will continue to play a leadership role in funding
for aviation programs.
"AOPA PAC's support for individual candidates doesn't
‘buy' votes, but does facilitate AOPA's ability to have a
dialogue with the politicians we have supported," said Boyer. "Then
it's up to us to present our case in a businesslike fashion,
effectively leveraging our 400,000 members to help make our point.
With those members representing votes in nearly every congressional
district, we are an organization that can't be easily ignored."
The AOPA PAC is not funded by member dues but by independent
contributions from AOPA members concerned about ensuring the
association's continued effectiveness on Capitol Hill.
With more than 400,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest
civil aviation organization. Some two thirds of all US pilots are
members of the association, which is committed to ensuring the
continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and
airports in the United States.
EAA Statement On The Elections
From Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president for industry and
"EAA looks forward to again working with the many lawmakers who
are aviation enthusiasts and have been returned to Congress by
their constituents, which includes many EAA members. A number of
these legislators are fellow aviators and friends with whom EAA has
established valuable relationships through the years. We also look
forward to meeting the new congressional representatives coming to
Washington as the next Congress is convened in January."