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NBAA Interview With Rep. Sam Graves

Rep. Sam Graves has a first-hand understanding of general aviation (GA). A life-long GA enthusiast, he has owned and flown a variety of aircraft. Missouri’s Sixth Congressional District, which he has represented since 2000, includes rural areas that rely on GA. From his position on the House Transportation Committee, Graves has served his constituents in the GA community effectively, supporting local airports and speaking out in opposition to aviation user fees as part of the FAA reauthorization currently before Congress. NBAA recently spoke with Graves about these and other issues.

How would you describe your relationship to general aviation?

I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of general aviation all my life. My brother and I used to go down and wash windshields for airplane rides. Over the past couple of decades, I’ve logged over 1,400 hours in a variety of aircraft. I own a 1967 Piper PA-28 Cherokee and a 1947 Piper PA-11 Cub special. I am in the process of restoring a 1939 Piper J-3 Cub and a 1946 Stinson Voyager. My long-term projects include a 1959 Calair A6, a 1947 Stinson Voyager and a Beech AT-10 Wichita. I am also building a RV-8 and a Steen Skybolt. All of this is why my wife calls my hangar the land of unfinished projects.

I’m a general aviation pilot and I just love to fly. In Congress I serve on the Aviation Subcommittee and that first-hand knowledge helps when considering proposals that are usually written by someone who doesn’t understand general aviation.

Your congressional district encompasses large rural areas spanning miles across Northwest and North-Central Missouri. How does general aviation serve these areas?

General aviation is very important in our part of the country. Many people in my district don’t have immediate access to airline service, so general aviation provides a critical transportation link for businesspeople and others to reach cities across the country. It also is important for rural hospitals and economic development. Specialists fly in to local hospitals, and flying cuts their travel time significantly. You also still have a lot of businesses that help control weeds from the air.

How have you applied your knowledge of aviation to the service of your constituency?

I put my knowledge of aviation toward improving people’s safety and mobility. General aviation is an important part of rural economic development, and I’ve supported a lot of projects in Missouri that help upgrade general aviation airports. Mostly though, I want to make sure that we keep general aviation as a viable option for rural areas.

What have you told your colleagues in Congress about proposals to replace the fuel tax with aviation user fees?

Frankly, I was speechless over the FAA’s user fee proposal, and I’ve been staunchly opposed to it. The existing fuel tax system for general aviation is a very efficient way for pilots like me to pay for using the aviation system – I simply pay the tax when I fuel my aircraft. In some countries where user fees are in place, general aviation has struggled. User fees would have a dramatic effect on rural America and businesses that rely on aviation. We don’t want to harm general aviation in the U.S., because it is so important in my congressional district and many others.