A group of eight aviation associations have formed the Utah Aviation Coalition.
Officials with the Utah Business Aviation Association (UBAA), the Utah Airport Operators Association (UAOA), the Utah General Aviation Association (UGAA), the Utah Back Country Pilots Association, and others, say they are optimistic the new coalition will boost support for general aviation in the Beehive State.
“We wanted to have a bigger voice in the state, in particular with regard to how state aviation funds are allocated,” said Rich Stehmeier, chairman of UAOA. “One of our key goals is to make sure that the money in the aviation fund, which is supposed to be restricted to aviation interests, is used properly.”
The aviation fund is supported by fuel taxes and aircraft registration fees and, along with matching FAA grants, must be used exclusively for aviation improvements in Utah, he noted.
Stehmeier also hopes the clout of an all-state aviation coalition will positively impact the influence of general aviation with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), of which the Division of Aeronautics is a relatively small part.
Jeff Hansen, chairman of UBAA, noted that coalition is already working closely with several state legislators, informing them about the need to protect the restricted fund and their concerns about how the state will pay for some potential aircraft purchases it is considering. According to Hansen, all the groups in the coalition have a stake in how aviation fund monies are spent, especially since they are vital to helping receive matching grants from the FAA.
“The business aviation community in Utah needs more resources at small airports,” said Hansen. “Having adequate funds for runway extensions, other airport improvements, pilot resources, and more will help both aviation interests, as well as the local communities who rely on their services.”