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NBAA2013 Opening General Session Speakers Emphasize Industry’s Importance Through Evolving Times

October 22, 2013

The NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2013) formally opened today with an energetic Opening General Session featuring perspectives from key lawmakers and influential business aviation leaders on the industry's direction, its current challenges and the importance of sharing with lawmakers and the general public information about business aviation’s innumerable benefits.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen began by noting how the industry has rebounded from the depths of the "Great Recession" that began five years ago.

"Times were tough for our industry," he acknowledged, "[but] through it all the people in our industry continued to invest in new products, they continued to invest in the future. We never ate the seed corn. And today, we're seeing all of that investment coming to fruition."

Bolen then introduced Rep. Sam Graves (R-6-MO), co-chair of the House General Aviation (GA) Caucus, whom Bolen called a "tireless advocate" for the industry.

In addition to his duties in Washington, Graves is also a private pilot and homebuilder who often spends weekends at his home airport (K57) in Tarkio, MO. While acknowledging the continued legislative challenges facing the industry in the aftermath of the government shutdown, and the ongoing effects of sequestration, Graves remains bullish on the industry's future.

"I'm an eternal optimist," he said. "I do think we're on offense, with programs out there that are doing a great job of bringing aviation to light... we obviously have to get government to understand what we're all about, but we also have to get the public to understand because aviation is a very easy issue to demagogue."

Graves' comments were followed by perspective from John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), whom Bolen praised for his collaborative approach with industry stakeholders on security policies. Pistole updated attendees on a range of TSA programs aimed at enhancing security without causing unneeded disruption to the mobility and flexibility that are the hallmarks of business aviation.

"What we've been working on is how we can use information that people voluntarily provide up front to do some pre-screening, and make informed judgments at the checkpoint," Pistole said. "As we work with associations such as NBAA, there are specific issues that we are attuned to, and the things we can do a better job at."

The final speaker was John Snow, former secretary of the U.S. Treasury and a highly regarded expert in global economics who is also well versed on the value of business aviation. Snow recalled his first encounter with a perennial bane of general aviation – user fees – in 1973 during his time as assistant general counsel for the Department of Transportation.

"I thought back then about how you always get less of whatever you tax," he said. "Why would we want to attack something that is so important to America? That old saw has been in the budget for the 40 years since, and has had about as much success today as it had back then. But you have to keep your guard up as people in Washington look at ways to deal with the budget mess."

With that in mind, Snow implored attendees to continue sharing how general aviation – including business aviation – benefits their companies and communities.

"They say what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas," he added. "I hope that [our] story doesn't stay here, but is propelled across the country and across the world, because business aviation is a driving force for productivity, competitiveness and innovation in the American economy."