General Aviation Serves America Archive

Voters Register Support for GA on Election Day!

Monday, November 12th, 2012

There was a very important Election Day victory for the general aviation community, but it did not involve anyone actually listed on a ballot.  Our victory has to do with the views of voters and a dramatic increase of support for GA from 2008 to 2012.  I will share with you below what we just learned from a new survey taken the evening of the election and the day after….

During the four years since the national elections in 2008, we in the general aviation community have been doing everything possible to advance the notion (and the reality) that GA really matters.  It means jobs, economic growth, and the expression of an important freedom, the freedom to fly.

 Here at AOPA we formed General Aviation Serves America when user fees threatened in 2009.  Our friends at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) advanced “No Plane, No Gain” to share stories of how vital aircraft are for all types of commercial activity.  And, together with a broad based group called the Alliance for Aviation Across America, we worked to encourage state legislators and governors to pass resolutions in support of general aviation.

So, here’s the story.  For a number of years, I have worked with one of the best public opinion researchers in the business who runs a post-election survey to learn all about what voters had on their minds on election day.  The survey is national and has a fairly large sample. But what has always interested me about this technique is that the survey consists only of voters who actually voted, so it provides valuable insights into the thinking of our citizens who care enough to vote!

The researcher works with several groups in advance to find questions that are of a unique interest.  So, in 2008 and again in 2012 we asked America’s voters some questions about general aviation.  To be honest, the results are very favorable—so favorable that if the exact same questions had not been asked previously by the same researcher using the same post-election survey technique, I might be a bit skeptical.

What I believe the survey shows very clearly is that America’s voters place a higher value on general aviation in 2012 than they did in 2008.  Yes, that’s right.  We are doing better in the minds of voters.  And, going into the highly charged public policy debates over the next several months, these findings should serve to bolster our case.

 So, here are the results.

  1. In 2008 and again in 2012, we asked voters to tell us whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:  General aviation in the United States is an important part of the nation’s transportation system.

                           In 2008, 62% agreed.  In 2012 93% agreed.

                   And, the agreement was across all demographic groups.

       2.   In both national election years we asked voters to agree or disagree with this statement:  General aviation in the United States  is important to me and my family.

              In 2008, 29% agreed.  In 2012, 76% agreed.

           3.  One other question of interest was asked that was new this year.  We asked voters about their aspiration to fly in a private plane.  Across all voters, 31% of those that had never been in a private plane said they hope to some day.  And, among younger voters between the ages of 18 and 24, just over half said they have the desire to fly in a private plane.

These election day results encourage me to think that tens of millions of America’s voters not only recognize the value of general aviation, but actually want to participate in experiencing the freedom to fly.  I know sometimes we feel like our constituency is small, but because we are passionate and vocal we are building a stronger appreciation for GA and all that the freedom to fly means in America! We need to keep up the fight and we need your continued support–together we really are changing the way America views GA.

South Dakota rallies GA

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

For a rural state like South Dakota, general aviation means successful farming, business growth, and access to the wider world. Today, Senator John Thune and Governor Dennis Daugaard took time out to recognize the value of general aviation in their home state—and I was pleased to be a part of this exciting Rally GA event.

From left to right: Ed Bolen, NBAA; Jim Cuhady, International Council of Air Shows; Craig Fuller, AOPA; Gov. Dennis Daugaard; Jim Peitz, Mustang Aviation; Sen. John Thune; Pete Bunce, GAMA; Rod Hightower, EAA; and Jim Coyne, NATA.

GA has played an important role in the South Dakota economy for a century—a milestone Governor Daugaard recognized earlier this year when he proclaimed June to be “General Aviation Appreciation Month” in his state. And now, more than ever, GA is an important stimulus in South Dakota.

I was lucky to have the chance to speak to South Dakota pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and voters at large at this Rally GA event. Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, served as emcee and Jim Peitz, president of Mustang Aviation, served as our gracious host. In addition to the governor and senator we were joined by Rod Hightower of EAA and Jim Coyne of NATA, Ed Bolen of NBAA and John Cuhady of the International Council of Air Shows.

Events like these are so important because they bring together elected leaders and voters to talk about what general aviation means to real people—whether they fly or not. So often, the economic impact of general aviation is invisible to those outside of the flying community. I’m betting that before today many of the people in the audience had no idea that Mustang Aviation in Pierre conducts 24,000 operations every year, or that those operations have a direct and indirect economic impact worth $58 million to the community.

Talking to pilots at today's Rally GA event.

Fortunately for the residents of South Dakota, their representatives understand just how important GA is to their state. I think Gov. Daugaard put it best today when he said, “Our economy and our safety would be compromised if not for general aviation.”

Hear, Hear!

Debt Ceiling Negotiations Bring Back User Fee Talk

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

You are not likely to have seen this in the weekend newspapers, but we recently confirmed that in the midst of the budget negotiations to avert the debt ceiling crisis, Administration officials placed on the table a private aircraft user fee proposal for discussion with Congressional leaders.  Details are very sketchy and most reports suggest that no decisions have been made.  However, on the heels of the hot rhetoric several days ago about the use of private aircraft and tax loopholes (that used to be job stimulus initiatives) there is much to worry about in this development.


The general aviation community has supported for years the use of added charges on our fuel purchases as a far superior way to raise additional revenue to help pay for modernizing our air traffic control system than user fees.  These charges are made at the pump without the need for a new federal bureaucracy to administer a user fee program that, reportedly, would be imposed on flight operations of GA aircraft.


Now, I know some in Congress do not like the fuel charge concept and call it a “tax.”  But, honestly, a fee is no better term if it comes with big bureaucracy that does not go to improving air safety.  What’s the point?  Let’s decide on what works not what sounds good.


And, today, the FAA Reauthorization Bill passed by the U.S. Senate contains an increase in the aviation fuel charges that we have supported and that would go right to the FAA.  If you need additional revenue, use this language not a user fee approach denounced by the key committees in Congress and the many members who focus on aviation policy.


Aviation User Fees and the big bureaucracy they bring need to COME OFF THE TABLE! 


We will be arguing this point forcefully as Congress returns to Washington this coming week telling our supporters that their opposition to user fees before was a good thing and it’s even more important now!  And, when needed, we will alert our hundreds of thousands of members to the return of a very bad idea!

Bringing Christmas to one small island

Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Santa arrives in the Caravan

Santa received a warm welcome when he arrived in the AOPA Caravan.

Today I got to enjoy one of my favorite holiday traditions–bringing Christmas to a group of children who live on a small, isolated island in the Chesapeake Bay.

I flew the AOPA Caravan to Tangier Island as part of the annual Holly Run where I was greeted at the small airport by an enthusiastic crowd of kids and their parents. But it wasn’t me the island’s youngest residents were excited to see. They were really waiting for Santa Claus, who decided to forgo the sleigh and reindeer for a ride in the right seat on this chilly afternoon. Even though we didn’t bring the sleigh, the Caravan did get a special ATC designation for the trip–Rudolph One.

Santa had his sack of toys, and the kids lined up to see what he would pull out for each of them. You just can’t beat the excitement of a child at the holidays, or the wonder on their faces when they discover that Santa has brought a special gift for them.

Santa hands out toys to excited children on Tangier Island.

Santa hands out toys to a crowd of kids on Tangier Island. He joined me in Rudolph One, better known as AOPA's Caravan, for the flight to the island.

Tiny Tangier Island is accessible only by boat or aircraft, and the majority of the residents make their living fishing and crabbing in the bay. It has a rich history (it was visited and named by Captain John Smith in 1608) but a relatively poor and small population, just about 600 people according to the 2000 census. And while the scenery is postcard perfect, the island’s isolation means many of the modern conveniences we take for granted are more or less inaccessible. So bringing Santa, and his sack full of toys, really means a lot.

It’s something we at AOPA are honored to be part of. And it was a great turnout by the GA community, with nearly 50 aircraft taking part. Our Caravan may not be able to circle the globe in a single night, but it can and does bring some welcome holiday cheer to at least one small community.

Olympic inspiration

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Over the past week or so I’ve been hearing from members who have been inspired by the athletes of the Special Olympics and wanted to know more about the Citation Airlift that brought hundreds of athletes from around the nation to the games in Nebraska. I was honored to take part and wanted to share with you some images from this wonderful trip.

We picked up our Baltimore area Special Olympic athletes early last Saturday morning at BWI….here we are wishing them well as we drop them off for a week of competition in Lincoln, Nebraska.





One week later we were back in Lincoln to pick up our athletes. Cessna did a tremendous job organizing the Special Olympics Airlift.  Thanks to well over 100 Citation aircraft, young athletes for around the country were able to participate. The FAA also did an outstanding job managing the flow of aircraft in and out of Lincoln.  The mobile operations center seen here on the right came in from Kansas City.




Speaking of the FAA, Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, flew the FAA Citation to take in the operations at Lincoln.






AOPA’s CJ3, N4GA, flew our Special Olympics Airlift mission as Dove 14.






Our athletes were excited to climb back on the aircraft with their medals.  We enjoyed a smooth flight back to Baltimore where family and friends were waiting.





A large welcome sign was rolled out for our traveling party…notice Hannah’s medals!
The CJ3 reverted back to N4GA and made the short hop back to our home base in Frederick.

Again thanks to Cessna for superb organization.  It was a privilege for all of us at AOPA to participate is such a meaningful and memorable event.

Finally, congratulations to all the Special Olympians…each and everyone is a true winner!


Taking flight with the Special Olympics

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Today, I had one of my most memorable flights as AOPA participated in the Special Olympics Airlift organized by Cessna.

We made an early start this morning, picking up four athletes and two coaches at Baltimore International Airport. All our fine athletes are from the Baltimore area, and today’s trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, was their first flight on a private aircraft. Their enthusiasm for the journey and the upcoming competition was contagious.

AOPA’s Citation, using the call sign Dove 14 for this special trip, is one of 160 participating in the airlift. Together we will bring more than 800 athletes to Nebraska for the games. This is the sixth Citation Airlift for the Special Olympics, and AOPA’s first time to participate. I have to say, I am honored to take part. By working together we are helping athletes from all over the country fulfill their dreams. And it’s something many would be unable to do without our help. It’s a mission that GA is uniquely suited to accomplish and just one more example of general aviation serving the larger community.


Good luck to our Baltimore-based athletes and all this year’s competitors! I look forward to seeing their smiling faces and hearing about their experiences when we pick them up for the return trip next Saturday.

If you’d like to share the excitement of our journey, be sure to take a look at the video on AOPA Online.

GA Serves America spokesman Harrison Ford on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Harrison Ford talks about General Aviation during a discussion on Capitol Hill.

Harrison Ford talks about General Aviation during a discussion on Capitol Hill.

With membership in the General Aviation caucuses in the House and Senate growing to record numbers, Harrison Ford came to a General Aviation gathering on Capitol Hill where he had the opportunity to talk about what general aviation means to him and to America.

GA Serves America spokesman Harrison Ford was in Washington this week.

GA Serves America spokesman Harrison Ford was in Washington this week.

Honestly, we could have no more passionate or articulate spokesman than Harrison Ford. Even with Congress debating a significant number of issues, we had a standing-room-only crowd as members of Congress and congressional staff listened to a discussion with Ford.

Our AOPA Live team was in the room. Watch the video online.

Scottsdale crowd gets engaged

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I am headed to Texas today for some meetings on my way back to the Washington area after a great couple of days in the Southwest. Last night I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a wonderful town hall meeting. We brought together AOPA members and others interested in the future of general aviation at the beautiful Hangar One complex built by AOPA member Bennett Dorrance. Bennett was a terrific host and the audience was impressively well-informed about the issues that affect our freedom to fly.

The audience asked some tough, informed questions during our town hall gathering in Scottsdale.

The audience asked some tough, informed questions during our town hall gathering in Scottsdale.

We were joined by a candidate for the open Congressional seat in the area, as well as a very pro-aviation mayor from a nearby city, and a state representative. All three seemed to appreciate my General Aviation Serves America message about the true value of general aviation for all Americans. Gatherings like this, when we can bring informed pilots and elected officials together, are critically important to helping us demonstrate just how “engaged” and passionate the general aviation community is. I think the officials who were part of the gathering left with a better understanding of GA, and the pilots and AOPA members who were present played an important role in delivering that message.



I will be continuing to travel the country with the GA Serves America message throughout the year. I hope you’ll join me and be part of sharing the GA Serves America message when I’m next in your area. You can find a list of upcoming events on the President’s Page  on AOPA Online. We’ll also send you an e-mail invitation to the next gathering in your area. Login in to your member page to make sure we’ve got your current e-mail address so you don’t miss out on these great opportunities to get engaged!

The State of the Union for GA

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I want to share a few thoughts with you about President Obama’s State of the Union Speech.

Over the past few decades, I have seen, studied, and even helped to craft State of the Union speeches.  These speeches take dozens of people, from all parts of an administration, more than a month to put together.

They are highly anticipated, given with much fanfare, and followed up with a massive communications effort.  And, then, they are pretty much forgotten.

Even if it isn’t remembered for long, last night’s speech is important because so much effort has gone into creating it. It tells us not only what the President thinks about the State of Our Union, but where he hopes to lead the country over the next year.

I anticipated an eloquent speech from a gifted communicator, and the President did not disappoint.

It was clear that the President wants to re-establish his connection with the working men and women in America. He wants to create jobs–including jobs building and improving our transportation infrastructure. We will work to make sure our vital aviation network is included in those efforts. 

The President also wants to help small- and medium- businesses. That is admirable. But I have to wonder how that will work with some of the budget ideas the Administration has set out.

For the aviation community, the true test will be in the details of the Federal Budget Proposal we expect to see on Monday. In the past, the Obama Administration has said it wants to impose billions in user fees to help fund the aviation system.

But why would the Administration pledge to support small- and medium-size companies, then turn around and burden those same companies with new costs just because they use general aviation?  

We can only hope that policies intended to create jobs and nurture small- and medium-size companies, will also support general aviation, not penalize it. We know that general aviation can create jobs and help companies grow. We have worked diligently to make sure that our elected leaders know that, too.

For now, we must wait and see how the Administration’s good intentions translate into concrete actions and hard numbers.

More on all of this on Monday when the budget documents are released….until then, stay engaged!

Keeping out the cold

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Like the rest of the country, Arkansas is suffering under the extremely cold weather we’ve been having. But when I arrived at Stuttgart Municipal airport on Saturday, January 10, the cold temperatures on the ramp were more than offset by the warmth of the welcome I received.  Not only did area residents drive in to meet me, those from farther afield arrived in some 20 airplanes as well as a couple of helicopters. It made quite an impromptu display on the ramp.

Everything about this airport is a testimony to the resilience and dedication of the GA community. The airport was devastated in 2000 when a tornado ripped through the FBO, leaving total destruction in its wake. But after a lot of hard work, the local community has built the airport back up, turning it into a vibrant GA field.

After I arrived, I was lucky enough to have lunch with area pilots and business owners, as well as John Knight, director of the state’s department of aeronautics. Stuttgart flyer and jewelry store owner Bobby Wilkerson was kind enough to let us use his wonderfully warm hangar, complete with vintage vehicles, for lunch. We enjoyed a delicious regional specialty, catfish, and talked informally about the issues that matter most to pilots.

After lunch, I got to talk to the group about all that AOPA does, as well as the importance of getting involved on an individual level–especially in this election year. Of course, the people who came out to the airport on this frigid day had already demonstrated their willingness to get involved, and the area is fortunate in that many of its elected officials know the value of GA. In fact, both Arkansas senators, Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, as well as Stuttgart’s congressman, Rep. Marion Berry, are members of their respective GA caucuses.

As always, the audience was interested to know more about the GA Serves America movement, but one of the best questions I got was on the issue of aging pilots. A 65-year-old pilot in the audience wanted to know, “How old is too old to fly?” After telling me his wife thought he was already too old and would no longer fly with him, I had the privilege to introduce him to another member of the audience–still flying at 89.

I am continuing my travels all week, and will be in Mojave, California, on Saturday, January 16. So, if you happen to be in the area, come on out to the Plane Crazy Saturday event at the airport. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!