General aviation is an economic engine that pumps $150 billion into the United States economy each year, states an April 20 AOPA news release.
In local communities, it brings outside business in, and lets local businesses extend their reach. It provides more than a million jobs nationwide and it provides services to all Americans through law enforcement, medevac, and other emergency services operations, as well as aiding relief efforts in times of disaster.
Even so, said the AOPA, general aviation faces acute challenges which could cause much, if not all, of that economic activity to dry up. “At the heart of many of those challenges is a general lack of understanding about the role general aviation plays every day in the nation’s transportation system, in our communities and in our economy,” said AOPA President and CEO Craig L. Fuller, so AOPA has launched one of the largest campaigns in its history, called General Aviation Serves America, with actor and avid pilot Harrison Ford volunteering his services to explain to the public what GA is and what it does.
Joining Ford are real people telling real stories about what general aviation means to their communities and to their businesses. Examples include the mayor of a Midwestern town whose major employer came there because of easy access afforded by the community airport, and a doctor who can get to his island resident patients only by air.
The campaign comes at a critical time, Fuller stated, because general aviation is under “tremendous pressure from legislators and regulators.” The Obama administration wants to change the way the FAA is funded and raise $7.5 billion through direct user charges, starting in October of 2011. At the same time, onerous and ill-conceived security regulations are threatening to strangle GA; proposed reductions in the General Fund contribution to the FAA could weaken support for community airports – a support already undermined by urban sprawl, with some local governments seeking to replace airports with residential development; and adding to GA’s burdens is an increasingly negative and unfair public perception of general aviation as jets for the rich. “I won’t beat around the bush,” said Fuller. “The current challenges facing general aviation are formidable.”
AOPA has committed an initial $1.5 million to the campaign, with plans to spend several million dollars more in the next few years. The campaign will employ digital advertising, web and viral resources and, electronic grassroots outreach in addition to extensive paid radio, television and print advertising, nationally and in targeted states.
While AOPA’s campaign will tell that story through the experiences of ordinary people, there is also the story told by hard statistics, Fuller said. General aviation creates jobs for some 1.2 million people who work at general aviation companies generating more than $150 billion in economic activity each year. “Especially at this time of severe economic troubles, it makes no sense to harm a sector that’s vital to our economy,” Fuller said.
“General aviation provides an economic lifeline for communities across America,” said Ford. “Millions of jobs and businesses of all sizes depend on small aircraft serving our country every day, yet a federal proposal for costly new fees could shut down community airports nationwide.”
“One broken link in the fragile general aviation chain could collapse the entire general aviation system across the country,” Fuller concluded. “That’s how imperative the actions we take today are to the future of general aviation.”