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Bolen Joins Other GA Leaders to Discuss Industry’s Challenges, Opportunities at Heli-Expo Session

Feb. 27, 2014

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen expressed measured optimism for the industry during a Feb. 26 discussion hosted by the Helicopter Association International (HAI) as part of its annual Heli-Expo in Anaheim, CA.

"It appears that flight hours are up," Bolen told attendees at the town hall discussion featuring leaders of several general aviation (GA) associations. "Fuel sales [also] seem to be up, so there is this kind of growing, guarded optimism that we're through the deep trough that we hit in 2009 and we're beginning to move forward."

Around this same period last year, he noted, talks of sequestration, FAA employee furloughs and threatened tower closures dominated any discussion about general aviation.

"Then in October, we went through a government shutdown," Bolen said. "Seventeen days where the [aircraft] registry was closed in Oklahoma City. No ability to buy an airplane in the United States, sell an airplane, or – in some cases – even move an airplane.

"It was a very challenging year for us," he continued. "And it was a year that I think bubbled over with a lot of frustration with the federal government, not just from our community, but with a lot of people."

Despite those challenges, Bolen noted that 2013 also offered many positive developments for the industry, including passage of the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act, the Pilot's Bill of Rights and legislation that preserved funding for contract air traffic control towers.

Bolen said that momentum should continue this year, thanks to strong support in Congress from the House and Senate GA Caucuses.

"There are, however, going to be some real challenges that continue to come forward in Congress," he added. "Just today we had an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal talking about extending the depreciation schedule for all general aviation aircraft, including rotorcraft, something we've been fighting against for a number of years."

Bolen also noted renewed discussions on Capitol Hill about alternative methods to fund the nation's air transportation system, including aviation user fees.

"Over the course of the next year and a half, we're going to be actively involved in that debate," he emphasized. "We're going to bring a healthy skepticism to the debate, but also an open mind."

Moderated by HAI President Matt Zuccaro, the town hall forum also included Mark Baker, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association president and CEO; Tom Hendricks, National Air Transportation Association president; Jens Hennig, General Aviation Manufacturers Association vice president of operations; and Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association chairman;. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, whose presentation opened the general session, also participated in the forum.