Feb. 25, 2021

As the pandemic continues to challenge the aviation industry, the entire sector has been united, working with Washington policymakers to move beyond the crisis, and achieve shared long-term priorities. That was the message NBAA delivered at two Washington, DC events held Feb. 24.

“We are all one aviation ecosystem, and we are interdependent on one another,” noted Christa Lucas, NBAA senior vice president of government affairs, in an online forum for the National Association of State Aviation Officials’ (NASAO) annual conference. “The general aviation airports, the businesses, the flight schools, the FBO’s – it’s all connected, and COVID-19 has had a dire effect on our industry.”

Much Needed Relief

Lucas pointed to legislation that provided federal loans and grants that helped aviation employers survive last year, supporting thousands of jobs.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law last March, with strong support from aviation. “It was a lifeline,” Lucas said. “The majority of NBAA’s members are small and mid-sized businesses, and that funding was crucial.”

Lucas was joined on the NASAO panel by Jim Coon, senior vice president of government affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Brad Van Dam, senior vice president for government affairs for the American Association of Airport Executives and Michael Robbins, executive vice president of government and public affairs for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. It was moderated by Greg Pecoraro, president and CEO of NASAO.

In an American Bar Association (ABA) forum the same day, Lucas delivered a similar message to attorneys from across the country, and it was supported by colleagues from Capitol Hill, the airline pilots and aerospace manufacturing.

Held during the ABA’s forum on Air & Space Law, that panel also featured Rachel Devine, vice president of legal and policy for Boom Supersonic, Dave Semanchik, senior attorney, Air Line Pilots Association, and moderated by Jenny Rosenberg, founder of JSTR Strategies, as well as Mike Tien and Mike Reynolds, senior policy staff for the U.S. House and Senate committees responsible for aviation.

Working with the new Biden administration, Congress is preparing another round of stimulus, the American Rescue Plan Act, that could “ensure our community goes from surviving to thriving,” said Lucas.

“Christa is right, there are so many variables still unknown, about vaccines, new COVID-19 strains, country restrictions and international flying,” said David Semanchik, a senior attorney for the Air Line Pilots Association. “Aviation will not be out of the woods by next month, so we are hopeful the current package will pass.”

Infrastructure Investments for the Future

Looking beyond the pandemic, Lucas was enthusiastic about the industry’s focus on innovation for driving long-term growth. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things change,” she said. “It’s changed how people use aviation. It’s important we invest in infrastructure not just for today, but for the future.”

She cited all the new entrants to the aviation system: drones, supersonic aircraft, advanced air mobility and the need to safely integrate all those technologies. “We need to consider how the system will be used five, 10 or 20 years now, and make sure our investment reflects these new technologies coming online,” she said.

in 2021, Congress will likely advance an infrastructure package around H.R.2, the Moving Forward Act, which looks to invest in the infrastructure of America’s airports, as well as put the country on a path to zero emissions in transportation, including sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which are the future of the industry and reducing emissions.

Lucas joined fellow panelists in welcoming the proposal to promote the use of SAF. “There’s a real willingness for business aviation to do its part [to reduce carbon emissions] in adopting and using these fuels.”