On Thursday October 3, RAF Director Tim Clifford and Maryland Liaison Craig McCullough were invited to participate in a US Congressional round table discussion regarding general aviation’s impact on small business in America. 

Joining the RAF on the panel were new AOPA president Mark BakerGAMA president Pete BunceNBAA’s Ed Bolen and executives from other major aviation organizations.   These industry leaders were invited to appear before members of the House Committee on Small Business that included Chairman Sam Graves, and Rep.Blaine Luetkemeyer as well as Rep. Frank LoBiondo who also sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

Although the group convened under the cloud of the government shutdown, according to Tim, “It was business as usual for these legislators who genuinely wanted to learn about the far reaching economic impact of GA.”

While much of the discussion centered around regulation and rule making that impedes the growth of aviation manufacturing and use, the RAF team took a different approach.  Recognizing that many members of congress have little or no knowledge of recreational aviation, the RAF team drew analogy to other more common motorized recreation including boating and motor home travel.  Comparing to motor home travel, it was discussed that today you can purchase either a used Luscombe airplane or a Winnebago camper for less than $20,000; you can also buy a new Kodiak aircraft or Prevost motor coach for $1.5 million. Both forms of recreational vehicle are available for just about any price in between.  In this way it was emphasized that aviation is not so different from other forms of recreational travel, should not be excluded from public lands and is certainly not just the realm of the wealthy and elite!

In discussion of recreational aviation’s economic impact, it was explained that our type of aircraft are usually built or re-built, hangared and maintained by small businesses. An aircraft sitting in a hangar, before it ever flies, has significant economic impact in the forms of hangar rent, insurance, annual inspection and periodic maintenance. And, when we travel we land at small airports, patronizing small businesses in small town America on our journeys. 

Like the motor home enthusiast, recreational aviators use their chosen form of transportation to arrive at some fun destination.  The conclusion was drawn for the panel that while both travel for the same reason, when the destination happens to be the federal system of parks and forests, the motor home is most often welcomed with substantial facilities improvements to accommodate their stay while the aircraft is heavily restricted in, discouraged from or denied access to use of any facilities.

It was also noted that the one significant difference is that these other forms of recreational transportation can have a far greater negative environmental impact utilizing generators and driven tires as opposed to our group of tent campers leaving only a 30 second sound signature when we depart.

Submitted on October 5, 2013.

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