February 14, 2013

While the purpose of a recent news conference held by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) was ostensibly to report general aviation aircraft billing and shipment figures in 2012, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce also looked to the event as an opportunity to highlight the importance of the entire general aviation industry, including business aviation, not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

“Advocating for government policies that strengthen GA is of paramount importance to this organization,” Bunce emphasized to reporters at the Feb. 12 event in Washington, D.C.

For Bunce, strengthening the industry means strengthening the potential for realizing all the benefits the industry already provides, including job creation and economic activity, access for towns and communities, competitive advantages for companies of all sizes and lift for important humanitarian initiatives.

Educating policymakers and opinion leaders about these realities, which make business aviation an essential industry in America today – is the central mission of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, which is jointly sponsored by GAMA and NBAA.

“We’re very proud that we partner with NBAA on the No Plane No Gain campaign,” Bunce noted at the event, adding that building awareness about the economic impact and other contributions the industry makes to society is “very important.”

As just one example of the initiatives undertaken to advance awareness of the industry’s importance, Bunce pointed to GA Advocacy rallies held last year in Alaska and Nebraska, which drew elected officials, representatives with media organizations and even members of the general public.

The two states are key locations for events like the ones Bunce described, as they are home to Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), the co-chairs of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, which was formed in 2009 to promote the importance of general aviation to citizens, companies and communities across the U.S. Today, the caucuses are among the largest and most influential groups on Capitol Hill.

Elaborating on the Nebraska event’s effectiveness in highlighting the industry’s value, Bunce recalled that Johanns and his home-state senate colleague, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) participated in the rally, “Looking our [business aviation manufacturing] workers in the eye and talking about the importance of what they do there for the economy in Nebraska,” as well as the economic importance of GA activity in the state, including flying for business.

As he did at the Nebraska and Alaska rallies, Bunce noted in his press conference that Begich and Nelson and their colleagues in the Senate GA Caucus do an outstanding job of championing the industry’s importance, as do the members of the House GA Caucus.

That said, Bunce continued, the ranks of the congressional GA Caucuses thinned last year, as some members retired or lost their bids for re-election in the 2012 general elections.

“The GA Caucuses are very important, and we have to rebuild them,” Bunce stressed, especially as Congress considers proposals that could be harmful to the industry, but might be offered to generate additional revenues as Congress debates ways to reduce the nation’s deficit. Such proposals could include new user fees or tax changes for the general aviation community. The GA Caucuses are very effective in informing debates about the industry’s importance when such onerous proposals are put on the table.

Ensuring that the caucuses remain large and active in promoting the industry will be a key focus for GAMA, NBAA and other general aviation groups over the coming year, Bunce said. Messages and resources produced by the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign will help support that work, and other advocacy initiatives.