Least Understood Groups Are The Most Vulnerable In DC
By Maxine Scheer
EAA held an Aviation Summit on Tuesday to discuss significant
issues facing general aviation and what is being done in Washington
and at the grass roots level to address them.
Tom Poberezny led a forum today featuring the presidents of four
aviation industry groups to discuss priorities and initiatives that
are the focus of attention in Washington DC. Association
presidents included Craig Fuller of Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association (AOPA), Peter Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers
Association (GAMA), Ed Bolen of National Business Aircraft
Association (NBAA) and Matthew S. Zuccaro, of Helicopter
Association International (HAI).
The “industry” is under
attack, said Ed Bolen. “They (the media) are [evoking]
questions about whether or not there is ever an appropriate use of
Business Aviation.” Ed asserted that a threat on
business aviation, by association, affects general aviation (GA)
and described the situation as “the most important challenge
the industry has ever faced.” All of the panelists
emphasized the political challenges associated with image problems
and the resulting limits created in garnering support for important
issues. While the new FAA Administrator, Randy Babbit, was
praised for his familiarity with GA, there was no discussion about
Babbitt’s position on policy making for GA.
Each of the industry group leaders presented examples of their
organization’s approach to correcting public misperception
about the industry and identified initiatives such as No Plane, No
Gain, where NBAA and GAMA are collaborating.
AOPA, with EAA, is promoting the campaign GA Serves America, and
described how important it is to shape the thinking of
“opinion leaders” and cited a recent AOPA poll which
revealed just how little most opinion leaders understand of the
fragility of the GA industry.
Earlier this year, AOPA took advantage of an offer made by actor
and aviator Harrison Ford to assist the GA industry. In just a few
days a campaign was developed. Within a few weeks of being
launched, Ford’s participation quickly rebranded AOPA into
the “Harrison Ford Group”, as was referenced by White
House officials during an AOPA visit to the West Wing.
A surprise panelist to the EAA schedule was HAI President Matt
Zuccaro, who described the mission critical role the rotorcraft
industry plays in healthcare, energy, and emergency response.
Numerous initiatives are on HAI’s plate. HAI is
dedicating full time staff to developing a safety evaluation and
training program with goals that include reducing helicopter
accidents by 80% over the next 10 years. HAI is also challenging
federal legislation, described as a potential regulatory nightmare,
and could translate into state oversight of helicopters and
promulgated as exempt from the requirements for public comments
prescribed by the Notice to Proposed Rule Making process
HAI is also developing public relations materials to educate and
change the public image of the industry, a video entitled “A
day in the life of … HAI has also developed a first
responder database of over 300 helicopter rated volunteers that
could be mobilized in minutes.
Peter Bunce emphasized the importance of the looming deadlines
of eliminating 100LL and the complexity of finding reasonable
solutions. “There is going to be pain,” said
Bunce, “by November, EPA expects GA to collaborate and come
up with a plan and a timeline.” As reported by ANN in
Panel at AirVenture Stresses Real Deadline for Replacement of
100LL, the timeline needs to be attainable before EPA could be
forced to dictate deadlines prescribed for 2016 and 2017.
Bunce anticipates that fuel solutions will include 94 unleaded and
some kind of synthetic fuel from Biomass and would likely be
developed specifically for the needs of aircraft types responsible
for the majority of fuel consumption. The remaining aircraft types
would likely require some kind of modifications and/or a boutique
Tom asked the panelists their opinion on the number one thing
that would have the most positive impact on overcoming GA’s
challenges. The responses:
- AOPA – Motivating members to get engaged with others and
share their (aviation) story.
- HAI – Public Relations.
- GAMA – Understanding each other’s issues to look
ahead at ripple effects.
- NBAA - “In the end”, said Bolen, “it’s
up to the constituents of each elected official to voice their
Then, he asked for comments that identified opportunities. The
replies tracked the various organizations' specialties:
- NBAA - Bolen recommends focusing on people’s concerns
about quality of life and the use of technology, such as those who
telecommute and how business aviation can improve their mobility
- GAMA - Peter Bunce described the vibrancy of LSA markets in
other parts of the world whose governments prescribe less
regulatory control over GA. He suggested that the US LSA
industry do a good job with NTSB and FAA to overcome concerns over
safety and “use LSA as the means to bring fun back to
- HAI - Zuccaro emphasized the benefits of ADS-B to improving
reliability of helicopter service, most pertinent from an economic
perspective to the productivity of the oil industry.
- NBAA – Achieving a unified front.
Each organization has on their websites more information about
how to get engaged with elected officials, and a number include
ideas for talking points. Hopefully the calls to action will
be heard by readers online and by word of mouth, as the forum was