General aviation will soon lose one of its staunchest supporters in the U.S. House of Representatives as Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) announced his retirement Feb. 10. Ehlers, 76, has served the state’s 3rd District (Grand Rapids area) for 16 years. He will retire at the end of his eighth term.
“Rep. Ehlers is a champion of general aviation and as an EAA member, he spoke often of wanting to build his own airplane,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. “He is a repeat visitor to AirVenture and to EAA headquarters in Oshkosh and with each trip would come armed with a list of the kit manufacturers he wanted to visit and the specific aircraft he wanted to see.”
Ehlers also was an ardent opponent of user fees for general aviation. “When GA was so widely maligned in Congress last year as a being elitist and only for the rich, he very vocally stood up in defense of general aviation and the community of recreational aviation in committee hearings and to the media,” Macnair added. “All of general aviation should be grateful for the staunch support of Vern Ehlers and his passion for aviation.”
More recently, Ehlers founded and serves as co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus, now numbering over 100 members. That group, along with the 23-member Senate GA Caucus, in concert with pilots, aircraft owners, the aviation industry and associations, aims to ensure GA has a strong voice in Washington.
“While I regret leaving when so much more needs to be done, I know it is time for me to step down,” Ehlers said in his retirement announcement. “I am in good health, but I recognize that I should complete this chapter of my life.”