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Thu, Jul 30, 2009

Aviation Associations Discuss Priorities On Government Affairs

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

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).

Craig Fuller

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.

Ed Bolen

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. 

Pete Bunce

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 (NPRM).

Matt Zuccaro

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 fuel.

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 concerns.

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 needs.
  • 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 flying.”
  • 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 sparsely attended.

FMI: www.gama.aero, www.aopa.org, www.eaa.org, www.rotor.com

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