LAS VEGAS — Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), one of GA’s biggest advocates in Washington, D.C., stepped up to deliver the keynote address at the National Business Aviation Association Convention in place of FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who told NBAA he needed to stay in Washington to get the FAA back up and running after the government shutdown.
NBAA officials took the opportunity to ask Graves a few questions, starting with: In the aftermath of the government shutdown, what are some of the most significant issues that you feel threaten general aviation in the United States?
“User fees, at least through the rest of this administration, will continue to be an issue of concern,” Graves said. “So, the industry and Congress must continue to work together to show the president and others in Congress that additional aviation user fees are a non-starter. As far as the tower closures and air traffic controller cutbacks, Congress has granted the administration the flexibility needed to move funds around in order to comply with the sequestration budget levels.”
Q: Why do you feel general aviation has such strong, bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, as evidenced by the record number of members in the House GA Caucus?
“General aviation touches every congressional district in some way,” Graves said. “Whether it is general aviation airports, aviation manufacturers, or — most importantly — our pilots across the country, GA activities contribute greatly to our economy and that is why support of GA in the House is so overwhelmingly bipartisan.”
Q: What changes would you most like to see in the current legislative environment to better support general aviation?
“If we can get our fiscal house in order without increasing the burdens on general aviation, then we should work on policies that actually help to promote this vital industry,” he said. “When the government needs more money to balance its books, it goes in search of new revenue. That is why we continue to see the threat of increasing aviation user fees offered by the president and his allies. However, 223 members of Congress sent a letter to the president this year reminding him that user fees are a non-starter in the House, and it was great to see such broad, bipartisan support on this issue.”
Q: Along those lines, what are some of the most significant “victories” for GA that you’ve seen and been a part of over the past few years?
“The user fees letter was a very significant victory because we were able to get 223 members to sign on opposing user fees,” he said. “This helped take user fees off the table as a potential source of revenue in budgetary talks this year.
“Also, we got a lot of things done in the long-overdue FAA reauthorization that I was proud of, such as through-the-fence agreements, the Block Aircraft Registration Request and a commitment to develop an alternative fuel that works for the entire fleet,” he continued. “But there is always more that could be done to protect and improve the regulatory and legislative climate for general aviation, and we’re working hard to look out for GA.”
Q: Please describe why it is personally important to you to attend NBAA2013, and what you hope to accomplish through your participation at the show.
“The key to educating members of Congress on issues of importance to the general aviation community is having those from the industry talk to their elected officials about the economic benefits of GA and the impact Washington has on their ability to operate businesses,” he said.
“I co-chair the House General Aviation Caucus, and recently we announced that over half of the members of the House have joined this group. That’s a major victory for raising awareness of GA and keeping our issues at the forefront, but people on Capitol Hill still need to hear from participants at NBAA2013 and other conferences who are invested in the future of GA.
I think it’s important for me to bring that message directly to the conference and encourage everyone to maintain relationships with the senators’ and representatives’ offices in Washington. I also enjoy getting to see everyone at events like NBAA2013 and having the opportunity to talk about how important GA is to our economy, while also continuing to learn from other pilots and experts.”
A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Graves has championed for the industry since his election to Congress in 2000.
Along with Rep. John Barrow (D-12-GA), Graves co-chairs the House GA Caucus, a leading voice on behalf of general aviation, and one of the largest and most active of the congressional caucuses. Earlier this year, the House GA Caucus achieved a record 223 members, comprising a majority in the House and demonstrating the wide scope of industry support among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Graves is also a member of the House Transportation Committee and the House Aviation Subcommittee.