Last week, I had the opportunity to join my colleagues in Anchorage, Alaska, to celebrate the many contributions general aviation has made to the community and around the state. At a rally held at Signature Flight Support at Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), Ed Bolen from the National Business Aviation Association, Craig Fuller from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Pete Bunce from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and I met with U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Mark Luiken to discuss how the efforts we are making here in Washington will affect the lifeline of Alaska’s residents and businesses to each other and the nation.
In my first official speech as head of NATA, I wanted to convey to our 82 Alaska member companies that we are here, working hard to provide them with the opportunities to expand on an already abundant general aviation infrastructure. The economic impact of general aviation in Alaska plays a huge role in the state’s overall economy and job growth. The industry contributes nearly $3.5 billion in revenue annually and employs 47,000 people; that is roughly 10 percent of the total workforce in the state.
In a state where aviation is sometimes the only means of connection within the state, and ultimately with the rest of the country, it is important to work with Alaska’s elected officials to ensure that fees and taxes are low, availability and accessibility are abundant, and business and job opportunities continue to thrive. In Congress, Senator Begich echoed our sentiments about aviation’s vitality. He currently co-chairs the Senate General Aviation Caucus, which has 39 members making it one of the largest, most active and most effective caucuses in the Senate. In Washington, Senator Begich cited the proposed $100 per-flight user fee as a detriment to every aspect of the aviation community. We look forward to working with Senator Begich and the General Aviation Caucus, in both chambers of Congress, to ensure that the user fee, and other pending issues, does not get in the way of, as the Senator stated, “the lifeblood of Alaska.”
Overall, I thought the event was a huge success. We had a turnout of more than 100 Alaskans – pilots, local associations and businesses, and aviation enthusiasts who share the same passion as we do. Aviation is a precious resource of the frontier state and its residents. It is a part of their life, their community and what Alaska really is, and the rally conveyed that message loud and clear.