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Four Questions for Rep. Vernon Ehlers

Since 1993, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI-3) has been fighting to ensure economic opportunity and security for the people of the Grand Rapids, MI area. His interest in general aviation (GA) and his seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has enabled him to lead the way on issues critical to the business aviation community. Last June, Ehlers co-sponsored an amendment to bring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) back to the table with industry representatives to discuss changes to the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). A strong supporter of business aviation, he helped found and currently co-chairs the House General Aviation Caucus.

How and when did you become interested in general aviation?

When I was four years old, I saw my first Piper Cub. I didn’t know what general aviation was then, but I was so fond of airplanes. In college I was active in the flying club. While I never got my private pilot license, I always have had an interest in GA.

What role does business aviation play in your congressional district?

Constituents say that business aircraft are a great investment. A friend owns a timber company and most of his properties are not near commercial airports. If his business depended solely on the airlines to transport his employees, his staff would have to fly into an airport 80 miles away, then drive to the facility. He says with the company’s Cessna Citation, they can come and go in one day, with the ability to stop at up to three sites. I also learned of a small factory in Grand Rapids that uses a Beechcraft. The owner told me that when equipment at his plant breaks down, manufacturing comes to a complete stop. So he uses his plane to get parts quickly and get back up and running in a matter of hours, not days. He said that really seals the deal with customers.

What prompted you to co-found the House GA Caucus?

We founded the caucus to dispel misconceptions about general aviation and show the value of GA to our national transportation system. There is a lot of misinformation out there that Congressman Allen Boyd (D-FL-2) and I wanted to address, especially when we found that TSA was making rules that could hurt GA. Since the caucus started, TSA has worked more closely with the aviation community, and we’ll continue to protect the industry and educate congressional colleagues about the benefits of GA.

“Beyond advocating for the industry, we’ll continue to educate colleagues about the benefits of GA, but we cannot do this alone.”

What are some of the goals of the GA Caucus?

We regard ourselves as advocates for the GA community. I would like 100 members in the caucus, and I think we can get there soon. Beyond advocating for the industry, we’ll continue to educate colleagues about the benefits of GA, but we cannot do this alone. We need everyone in GA, including NBAA Members, to reach out to their representatives and let them know how important this industry is to our country.