Second Annual Wichita Aero Club ‘On-Air’ Summit Draws Large Crowd to Hear Heads of Aviation Trade Associations

November 30, 2010 12:45pm

Panel Moderated By BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL AVIATION Senior Editor Fred George Discusses Major GA Issues

Wichita, KS – November 30, 2010 – The Wichita Aero Club’s final monthly luncheon of 2010 was its second annual “ON-AIR SUMMIT,” featuring a panel of five senior executives representing the major business and general aviation trade associations discussing key issues facing the business and general aviation communities. As Molly McMillin reported in the WICHITA EAGLE, the panel agreed that more should be done on a grassroots level to build a pilot population, protect general aviation airports and promote the general aviation industry to keep it viable. “The general aviation industry isn’t huge, but it’s not insignificant,” National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen said during the Wichita Aero Club panel discussion about the industry.

General aviation includes 600,000 pilots, 1.2 million employees and 5,000 general aviation airports, he noted, but the industry faces a number of issues – a shrinking number of pilots, the threat of user fees, a need to move to unleaded aviation fuel, and the cost of aircraft certification. Mr. Bolen was joined on the panel by Andrew Broom, vice president for communications at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; General Aviation Manufacturers Association president Pete Bunce; Experimental Aircraft Association president Rod Hightower; and National Association of State Aviation Officials CEO Henry Ogrodzinski.

The panel members also went on to say that more should be done to promote learning to fly and help those taking flight lessons finish. Only about 20% of those who start training finish according to Mr. Bunce. He and the AOPA’s Broom noted that their organizations are working with airframe manufacturers to develop student pilot retention programs.

Other major topics addressed by the panel included the continuing threat and potential effects of the imposition of user fees on general aviation. “User fees are simply a bad idea and bad ideas are hard to get rid of in Washington,” Bolen noted. The current method of funding the nation’s airports and airways system through a fuel tax is “virtually ideal” as it currently operates according to the panel. It costs nothing to collect, since it is paid at the time fuel is purchased, it’s virtually impossible to avoid and it doesn’t incur any additional overhead costs or red tape to administer since there’s no paperwork or documentation required.

Finally, the panelists also agreed that activities such as the Wichita Aero Club and the EAA’s Young Eagles Program, the NBAA’s and GAMA’s “No Plane, No Gain” initiative, and the AOPA’s and NASAO’s efforts to promote local airports’ importance in their local communities are all important to the future of aviation and to the general aviation industry’s recovery and continued viability. Working together to promote the industry is key, they said.