Power of Numbers

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Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the chairman of the House Small Business Committee and co-chair of the General Aviation Caucus, is looking for a promotion.  Graves says he’s the assistant line boy at K57 (Gould Peterson Municipal Airport) in Tarkio, Mo., on the weekends, and is hoping to move up the chain.  “I’ll pump your gas,” he told the Opening General Session at the National Business Aviation Association’s convention in Las Vegas.

Graves, a strong aviation enthusiast, views general aviation as one of the most important industries in the U.S.  “It affects everybody,” he says, citing the 1.2 million in jobs creation and the $150 billion contribution to the U.S. economy.

But he also is aware of the threats facing the industry, which is why he believes the growth of the GA Caucus is particularly important.  The GA Caucus has grown to more than half of the House membership with 229 members.  This makes it one of the largest on Capitol Hill, and, Graves says, “makes it a very, very powerful caucus.

The caucus has taken on a number of issues that seem to recur, such as user fees and depreciation.  But it also has had to fend off those that pop up, such as the shutdown.  “The registration issue was something that was very frustrating,” he says, adding that ‘you shutdown the registry, you shutdown an entire industry.”

He warns that other threats to industry may be in the future.  These threats, he stresses, are not tied to one party or another or one administration or another, Graves says.  User fees, for instance, were promoted in the first Bush Administration.

It is not a matter of party.  “It is a lack of understanding,” he says.  “That’s why we put together the GA Caucus.”  He adds that there are many ambassadors of industry, from leaders to air show performers.  Collectively they are trying to educate the public of the importance of the industry.  Politicians will attack aviation to try to appeal to a lot of people, he says, but that becomes more difficult if the public becomes more aware of the issues involved.

“When FAA lost advocacy [from its] mission, that's when it became time to advocate for ourselves,” he says.

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