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Grassroots Advocacy Saves MA Aviation Education Program

August 4, 2014

Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan podcast on successful advocacy efforts in Massachusetts.

At first, the concept of an FAA-certified, college-level course for aspiring airframe and powerplant (A&P) maintenance technicians at Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) in Massachusetts seemed like a win-win proposition. But then Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed $1.95 million in state funding for the start-up program, saying it was not consistent with his education-funding proposal.

“It’s a vital program,” explained Dave Dinneen, executive director of the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA). “We have a pilot shortage. But for planes to fly, we also need good quality, certified maintenance technicians. So as soon as we heard about the veto, we went to work.”

The initial appropriation was to have covered the cost of acquiring a hangar at Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA), then retrofitting the hangar and the adjacent ramp area to make it a learning facility for approximately 65 students.

Dinneen and other aviation advocates immediately sprung into action. MAMA contacted more than 700 individuals and organizations, explaining the need for the CCCC program, its cost-effectiveness and the perceived return on investment that would be enjoyed by the entire state. NBAA issued an alert to its Members in Massachusetts, urging them to contact their legislators. The advocacy push resonated, and soon the phones were ringing in legislators’ offices at the state house.

At the same time, state Sen. Don Humason, Jr. was working on the issue. The leader of Massachusetts’ General Aviation Caucus, Humason began contacting his fellow legislators to make the case for instituting an A&P program at CCCC.

“This is the high-tech industry we’re always talking about,” explained Humason. “We want to bring this type of business to our state. It’s the types of jobs you want, and this is why we created the caucus seven years ago. We were ready to mobilize quickly.”

The effort to win over lawmakers to the CCCC proposal worked remarkably well, Humason said. The Senate overrode Patrick’s veto 39-0. In the House, the vote was 115-0.

“With that substantial override, it’s law. The money will be available,” said Humason. “It’s what we want in Massachusetts. It’s the signal we want to send that says this is the place to come to be involved in the aviation industry.”

Humason said the new 18-month A&P course will provide a big boost to the state’s already robust aviation education programming. He also called the effort to override Patrick’s veto the result of teamwork.

“These [advocacy] networks have been built over most of the past decade. We have a strong group to call on whenever we need it,” he said. “This industry is good for the state and for the nation and it’s been under attack for the last couple of years. We, in the commonwealth and in this country, should be at the forefront of the aviation industry.”