DOT Sec. LaHood “gets it”, he tells Wichita audience

March 21, 2011 by Craig Fuller

This morning I was fortunate to be in the audience as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke to more than 2,000 general aviation workers and supporters at an event in Wichita hosted by Cessna.

Shortly before he took the stage, I had a chance speak privately with Sec. LaHood. The enthusiasm he expressed for the GA industry and its workers was encouraging.

More than 2,000 people from numerous GA manufacturers gathered in Wichita to hear Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood speak.

During the event, Sec. LaHood told the enthusiastic crowd that, “GA will be one of the leaders as the economy picks up…we get it.” He even told the audience he would do all he could to encourage President Obama to visit Wichita and “thank you for all you are doing to make this country what it is by manufacturing these fantastic airplanes that are made in America.  It doesn’t get any better.”

Of course, that’s exactly what all of us who care about GA want to hear—that the leaders who make so many decisions affecting the future of our industry and our freedom to fly really “get it,” really understand the economic, transportation, business, personal, and humanitarian value that only general aviation can deliver.

For the workers assembled from Cessna, Bombardier, Beech, Garmin, FlightSafety, Rockwell Collins, and others, the secretary’s remarks were good news indeed. “The work you do will win the future for America,” he told the crowd.

Secretary LaHood's plane as seen from the cockpit of N4GA.

Other speakers, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Sen. Jerry Moran, and Congressman Mike Pompeo expressed similar sentiments, focusing on the importance of keeping and creating jobs in general aviation. GA directly employs more than 17,000 people in Kansas and the industry contributes more than $7 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association.

Sen. Moran emphasized that the large audience had gathered to say, “We want our jobs. We want to keep our jobs. And we want to expand jobs.” He added that general aviation connects Kansas to the rest of the world.

Rep. Pompeo was equally enthusiastic, telling the crowd, “I’ve only been in Washington a few months, but it didn’t take long for me to find that this industry is the envy of the world.”

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton, who hosted the gathering, talks to the media.

The event was a great start at expressing and building support for the general aviation industry. Now all of us who value GA will have to work together to keep that momentum going and ensure that these positive expressions become concrete actions that will support the recovery of the general aviation industry and protect our freedom to fly.