WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since 2007, the Alliance for Aviation Across America has been spreading the word about general aviation to elected officials, the media and, to some degree, the general public. It is proving to be a strong part of general aviation’s continuing struggle to gain recognition and to prevent burdensome regulations, taxes, and restrictions on flight.
The goal of the alliance is “to protect this economic lifeline to rural and small communities, which is a crucial resource for business, medical care, disaster relief, and a key transportation asset to residents in isolated communities.”
The alliance does this by keeping posted on local issues, informing key organizations of events, and making comments to elected and appointed officials at various levels of governments. When a group like the League of Rural Voters, the National Farmers Union, or the Alaska Public Health Association expresses views on the subject, it reinforces the positions taken by the various general aviation organizations that admittedly have biased positions.
One of the alliance’s activities is an economic impact survey that provides specific information about the benefits of general aviation in each state. Information is available on the alliance’s website. For example, the survey shows the state of Alabama has 73,140 jobs directly connected to general aviation and there is an economic impact of $4.7 billion to the state. Additional information, such as the number of airports, pilots, and aircraft, is included. This gives general aviation proponents specific data to include in rebuttals to negative statements or positive information to justify positions on proposed government actions.
Another way the alliance assists general aviation organizations is by monitoring news. General aviation organizations like AOPA, EAA, NBAA and others, can’t monitor publications around the nation, but the alliance — with its more than 5,800 members — can. Rebuttals and positive information can be sent quickly to the offending publications by the general aviation groups. This is often done by the alliance in joint statements from general aviation groups.
Included among those 5,800 members are mayors, state legislators, and many individuals who are owners or workers in various businesses. A few of the non-aviation groups that are members are: the National Grange, US Cattlemen’s Association, American Corn Growers Association, Las Vegas Urban Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Coal Association, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officers, an indication of the diversity of interests.
The alliance is funded strictly from donations. There are no dues. Contributions are not necessary for membership, although they are appreciated. The work of the alliance is done by a staff of only five people, headed by Executive Director Selena Shilad.
The current year is starting out to be the most productive of the alliance’s short life. So far, 37 states have formally recognized general aviation with proclamations or resolutions stressing the importance of GA to their states. More than 100 mayors signed a letter to President Obama citing the need to protect general aviation from user fees, mentioning the benefits their local airports and general aviation bring to their communities, benefits they see firsthand. The alliance also released a letter from three governors urging the protection of general aviation.
Although featured in news articles in a few newspapers about general aviation’s importance to these communities, the alliance has kept a low profile. Its emphasis on general aviation’s importance to rural communities and small cities is another avenue helping GA’s dedicated organizations achieve their objectives for the industry.
“The alliance is focused on raising the bar and showing new ways to show the value of general aviation,” Shilad said.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.
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