I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Montreal, Canada, where I had the privilege of telling the general aviation story to leaders of the international civil aviation community.
I spoke before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council about the value that general aviation brings to all the countries where it is allowed to thrive.
At times this has been a very sore point. In many countries, general aviation struggles just to survive under the burdens of heavy user fees, strict regulations, and prohibitive cost structures.
But recently, I have seen some real progress in this arena.
The European Parliament recently adopted a sweeping pro-GA resolution. The Agenda for Sustainable Future in General and Business Aviation, as it is called, acknowledges the differences between GA and commercial operations and calls on member nations to invest in general aviation. It also stresses the importance of keeping regulation in proportion and ensuring GA access to airspace and airports.
It’s somehow ironic that even as Europe is coming to a greater understanding of the many benefits GA brings and actively taking steps to nurture it, we in the United States are facing some of the greatest threats GA has seen in a generation or more. Perhaps the biggest of these is something that has caused so much harm to general aviation in other countries: user fees. More than $9 billion a year, if the President’s budget is adopted.
Naturally, I spoke about the GA Serves America Campaign, and how we are using it to educate decision makers in this country. I also talked about how those ideas are true all across the globe. Really, GA serves the world.
It was wonderful to be able to share this story with an appreciative audience at ICAO—a body that deals mainly with commercial aviation. They were interested to learn about the many missions GA flies and had numerous questions about safety and the work of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. After the presentation, several participants came up to me to express their thanks for the reminder that GA is a vital part of the global transportation system.
At the end of my presentation, I reaffirmed my personal commitment to be part of the solution to the many challenges facing all of aviation. And I had the chance to give the ICAO representatives a model of a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, just like the one I own and fly. They promptly displayed it in their chamber where it joined numerous commercial models.
I hope it will serve as a reminder that GA rightfully holds a place as a valuable component of the aviation community all over the world.