The General Aviation Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives numbers close to 220 members, making it one of the largest caucuses in the House.
But what is the GA Caucus and why is it important to you?
1. What is a Caucus?
A congressional caucus is a group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives that meets to pursue common legislative objectives. There are literally hundreds of caucuses in the House, ranging from hard-hitting issues like prescription drug abuse, cancer, and Alzheimer’s to rum, rugby, and rock and roll.
Other aviation related caucuses include the Air Cargo Caucus, the Congressional Pilots Caucus, and the House Aerospace Caucus.
2. What is the GA Caucus?
Founded in 2009, the House GA Caucus “promotes the importance and value of general aviation and its vital role in the nation’s economy and transportation system. It also serves to educate all members of Congress and their staff about issues that are critical to the success, strength, and growth of GA,” according to National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen.
“Time and again, House GA Caucus members have been among the most effective champions for the general aviation community,” he said.
The GA Caucus is bipartisan and includes members from across the country.
“While aviation is an important piece of the country’s transportation network and a vital industry for the national economy, not every congressional district has or is near a large airport,” adds Congressman Sam Graves (R-Missouri), who serves as co-chair of the GA Caucus. “But I bet every member of Congress has at least one GA airport, and likely multiple GA airports, that are important engines for their local economies. Especially for rural districts like mine, these small airports provide important connections to the larger world and help create and support jobs. The GA Caucus gives members from across the country and from all types of congressional districts a forum to focus on, stay informed about, and advocate for this important issue.”
3. What exactly do the members of the GA Caucus do?
According to Graves, the GA Caucus meets several times during the year.
“Earlier this year, we hosted a panel for GA organization leaders and Caucus members to discuss their priorities,” he reported. “We also work together to identify and address GA concerns and issues through the legislative process — that includes everything from initiating legislation to simply keeping our members informed of any bills or developments within the federal government that could impact the GA community.”
4. What is the impact of the GA Caucus?
Some examples of GA Caucus initiatives that have become law are the Pilot’s Bill of Rights from 2012, small aircraft certification reform in 2013, and third-class medical reform in 2017, known as BasicMed.
“The biggest and most successful change has been third class medical reform, which was originally part of the Pilots Bill of Rights 2,” said Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “There are now 50,000 pilots flying under the new reform now called BasicMed.”
Other legislative changes include the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights that provides protections for pilots when faced with possible FAA enforcement actions, the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, and defeating previous efforts to impose user fees on GA, he noted.
“There were also a number of important issues addressed in the broader FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that were first raised by our members, flagged with the FAA, and ultimately included in the FAA bill because of the work of the GA Caucus,” Graves added. “Those issues included reforms to hangar use policy and treatment of the aircraft registry office during a shutdown.”
“We are also currently working with the United Kingdom’s version of the GA Caucus on recognition of third-class medical reform standards in the U.K. for pilots traveling overseas,” he continues. “The U.K. group visited Congress, met with my fellow GA Caucus co-chair Marc Veasey and me, and we have pledged to continue working together toward reciprocal recognition of those standards. That’s an example of our work having a more global impact.”
The GA Caucus is also a tool to help grow general aviation, according to the NBAA’s Bolen.
“Having a strong GA caucus provides us with an incredibly valuable tool to promote the message of job creation, economic development, and service to rural communities, which are at the core of general aviation,” he says. ‘“With more than 5,000 public-use airports in the United States, GA touches nearly every congressional district, and the caucus allows us to have a common voice that promotes the industry.”
“Whether it’s connecting small towns and rural communities, or providing humanitarian assistance following natural disasters such as hurricanes, GA has a presence in almost every congressional district,” AOPA’s Baker added. “As a bipartisan group of members of Congress, the GA Caucus has helped promote this important industry, which provides $219 billion in total economic output in the U.S. and creates 1.1 million jobs.”
5. Is your elected representative a member of the GA Caucus?
The GA Caucus numbers 219 members, making it one of the largest in the House.
“We are regularly one of the largest caucuses in Congress, which speaks to the importance of GA issues throughout the nation,” said Graves. “More importantly, the caucus has a demonstrated track record of taking action on the issues important to our members and positively impacting policy on the federal level.”
And officials are working to see those numbers grow.
“We are always in a state of reaching out to new and prospective members, making sure they know what we stand for and building our numbers,” Graves said.
Want to know if your elected representative is a member of the GA Caucus? NBAA has a roster on its website. AOPA also has a roster, along with an interactive map where you can click on your state and see who is participating.