IAOPA General Statements
"General Aviation Serving the World"
IAOPA President Craig Fuller remarks before ICAO
I am honored to be here representing the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations, or IAOPA. While I serve as president of both AOPA United States and IAOPA, I am here today to speak about the role and value of general aviation in the global transportation system.
As you know, IAOPA is committed to working with all segments of the aviation community to ensure that we have the best, most appropriate, and safest operating environment possible. Today I want to renew that commitment and assure you that, as the international voice for the personal and aerial work segments of general aviation, IAOPA is dedicated to working collaboratively with others in the aviation community to solve the challenges facing us today and into the future.
IAOPA was founded in 1962 in response to a lack of knowledge about general aviation. Too often that lack of knowledge led to the creation of standards and practices designed only with commercial operations in mind. And, all too often, those standards made little sense or imposed unattainable burdens on the small aircraft and varied missions flown by general aviation operators.
Despite these efforts, GA is still often overlooked or misunderstood. And it continues to be defined not by what it is and does, but by what it is not. Unfortunately, this approach to understanding GA is wholly inadequate when you consider the economic impact, far reaching scope, and variety of missions served by general aviation.
And so, while we can begin from the premise that general aviation is not the airlines or the military, I would like to take a few moments to define what it is and how it fits into the international transportation system.
General aviation includes a wide range of aircraft (show slides) from one- or two-seat recreational aircraft to two-seat trainers, four- and six- seat aircraft for personal transport, and larger aircraft as well. These aircraft include helicopters, single-engine piston-powered airplanes, and light jets. And they are used in activities such as flight training, personal transportation, business flying, charitable transportation, and recreational flying.
ICAO makes the distinction between these activities and “aerial work,” but in many member States, no such distinction exists. As a result general aviation may also include activities such as aerial photography, law enforcement, firefighting, medical transport, agricultural chemical application, forestry, wildlife management, and on-demand air charter operations. Taken together, these operations have enormous economic and social benefits for participating States. Worldwide, there are approximately 370,000 registered aircraft and more than 1 million pilots flying 35 million hours each year. In the United States alone, general aviation is responsible for creating more than 1.2 million jobs and generating $150 billion in annual economic activity.
Worldwide, GA is also the source of the majority of commercial airline, charter, and military pilots, who learn to fly and build experience in general aviation aircraft in non-commercial operations. And while other systems for training and developing commercial pilots are being developed, GA is likely to continue to supply the majority of commercial pilots for many years to come.
But perhaps the greatest benefits of general aviation are to people, not economies, industries, or States. General aviation provides unmatched freedom of movement and access to communities that would otherwise be isolated. It allows individuals and businesses to efficiently move people and cargo without adhering to rigid schedules or inefficient routings.
Despite its many benefits, general aviation today faces a broad range of challenges, starting with the global economic recession. All segments of aviation are suffering as a result of the recession, and general aviation is no exception. GA operations are down between 20 and 30 percent worldwide while new aircraft deliveries are down 41 percent year-to-date. But this is not the first time that GA has suffered along with the overall economy. And history has shown us that, because general aviation provides a range of vital services, it will recover along with the economy as a whole.
In the United States, where general aviation activity has suffered just as it has throughout the world, we have worked closely with 11 other aviation groups and U.S. government officials to ensure that general aviation receives a portion of the economic stimulus spending approved by the U.S. Congress. Money from that package is beginning to flow to small airports around the U.S., which are using the funds for airport improvement and infrastructure projects. While this investment alone is not sufficient to return GA activity in the U.S. to pre-recession levels, it is generating the type of infrastructure improvements that will ensure the aviation system is ready when the economy recovers and GA activity increases.
So while the challenge presented by current economic setbacks is significant, it is not actually the greatest challenge facing GA. That comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of general aviation, which in turn leads to inappropriate operating and equipment requirements, unreasonable fee structures, and impossible security regulations.
Among our affiliates, we are working to improve the understanding of general aviation through a variety of outreach efforts to policy makers and the public. For example, AOPA- U.S. has launched the General Aviation Serves America campaign, which uses a combination of advertising and advocacy to tell the true stories of how general aviation aircraft and pilots serve all Americans, whether they fly or not.
Others within the general aviation community have also undertaken important outreach efforts. Among these is the “No Plane, No Gain” campaign launched by the National Business Aviation Association.
The need for outreach efforts like these became apparent earlier this year because of a combination of pressures on general aviation in the United States—pressures that closely parallel those in other States around the world.
Among those pressures are new security proposals designed for air carriers but being applied to general aviation. In many cases these proposals fail to take into account the more personal nature of general aviation, including the fact that GA uses smaller aircraft, carries fewer passengers, and represents far less of a security threat than air carrier operations. Unfortunately, these misguided proposals, if enacted in their current form, could close small airports and prove prohibitively expensive for general aviation operators.
Urban pressures on small airports are also leading to operating restrictions or even closures as airport neighbors and local officials seek to redevelop the property for other purposes. This desire for redevelopment has been exacerbated by the current economic conditions as local governments seek new sources of revenue. Unfortunately, once closed, GA airports are almost never replaced, decreasing access to communities that no longer have this valuable connection to the air transportation system.
Airspace restrictions that do not allow light aircraft to efficiently transit metropolitan airspace at low altitudes pose another challenge to general aviation, and the lack of standardization in how airspace is allocated can make international flight especially complex and confusing.
At the same time the fee-for-service systems used in many States, and under consideration again in the United States, can pose safety hazards as operators seek to reduce costs by choosing not to get weather briefings, file flight plans, or make radio calls. In some cases, these fees are so high as to effectively shut down most types of general aviation operations.
In each case when a new cost is imposed on aviation, GA operators must pay out of their own pockets or from the funds of their small businesses. This is not the case for air carriers which can spread the cost by passing it along to hundreds or thousands of passengers. As a result, fees, equipage costs, security requirements, and other expenses imposed on aviation are often disproportionate in their affect on GA.
Like other segments of aviation, general aviation pays taxes on aviation fuel. Using at least a portion of those taxes to fund aviation infrastructure improvements would be one way to offset some of the costs being directed at aviation today. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.
These are just some of the biggest challenges general aviation faces today, and of course, those challenges will change and evolve in the future. Despite the magnitude of some of these issues, I am optimistic that, working together, we can find solutions that satisfy the needs of all segments of the international aviation community, including general aviation.
At IAOPA, we want to play an active role in finding those solutions. We are fully engaged in the issues that face GA both in the international arena and in the 68 States where our affiliates are located. As a result, we have a broad perspective that lends value to discussion of the many issues that impact our members.
General aviation is an important part of the international aviation system, and must be included in the process of developing and regulating that system. The aviation system includes aircraft, operating parameters, and missions of all types and sizes. Standards and guidelines must reflect those differences. Failure to do so could undermine general aviation and put an end to the many benefits it delivers to individuals and businesses around the world.
Again, I want to offer my personal pledge, along with that of IAOPA’s 480,000 members, to be part of the solution to the challenges we confront today and in the future. We are committed to working with the international community across all segments of aviation to ensure that the world’s aviation system functions efficiently and safely for all users.
Thank you for your attention. I will be glad to take questions in just a moment, but before I do, I would like to invite Ms. Madeline Deshaies, vice president of the Air Navigation Commission to join me. Ms. Deshaies, I wish to present you with this model airplane—a Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza, very much like the airplane I personally own and fly. Please accept it as a reminder of the many different types of aircraft that participate in the international aviation system, and as a reminder of our commitment to be actively engaged in improving that system to the benefit of all users.