October 24, 2012

Gov. Robert Bentley recently proclaimed October 2012 as General Aviation (GA) Appreciation Month, making Alabama the 46th state to recognize the value of general aviation since the beginning of the No Plane No Gain campaign, which is sponsored by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

“The GA industry has made significant contributions to economic development within the state of Alabama for more than 100 years,” the governor wrote in the proclamation. Alabama’s aviation heritage started in 1910 with the state’s first civilian airport near Montgomery, built by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Review the Alabama proclamation. (PDF, 2.92 MB)

Bentley cited a “first round” economic impact of $800 million annually from general aviation, which includes business aviation. In addition, the 300-plus aviation and aerospace companies in the state directly and indirectly employ more than 150,000 workers, for a total annual payroll of more than $6 billion.

Alabama has 76 GA public-use airports and 61 rotorcraft launching pads, which serve more than 5,500 based aircraft, 7,700 certified pilots and 7,000 aviation maintenance technicians. The proclamation goes on to say that one in three people employed in Alabama work for a company or industry that directly utilizes GA in the performance of its business.

The governor noted, however, that of Alabama’s 235 landing areas, only six have any commercial airline service, a fact that Alabama Aeronautics Bureau Chief John C. Eagerton said emphasizes the value of business flying in the state. “Smaller GA airports let business aviation bring goods, services and prosperity to the local communities.”

Eagerton said that the state’s GA airports have made enormous strides in safety in the last decade. “Ten years ago, about 60 percent of our GA airports did not meet state licensing standards,” he said. “Today that number is down to only 10 or 15 percent, and for most of those it’s just some minor safety matter that can easily be corrected.” Alabama’s airport standards go beyond those dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Eagerton added that the total value of Alabama’s aviation activity was estimated at $4.7 billion in the last state economic impact study a decade ago, and that he expects a substantially larger figure to come from the next such study, slated for 2013.

Bentley’s proclamation praised the GA industry for providing “critical services to the residents of Alabama to include medical evacuation, critical care patient transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, aerial survey and mapping, aerial application and forestry services.” He also noted that many communities depend on GA for the continued flow of commerce, tourism and essential services.

“General aviation specifically helps businesses to stay connected and compete in the global marketplace,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We thank Gov. Bentley for signing this proclamation recognizing the importance of business aviation to local communities across Alabama and the nation.”

More than 90 percent of U.S. states have now officially recognized the value of GA and business aviation, with all proclamations including at least some of the basic tenets of the No Plane No Gain campaign, which was launched in early 2009.