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CAPITAL VIEWRep. Graves Continues to Advocate for Business Aviation
Representative Sam Graves is a sixth-generation, full-time family farmer and lifelong resident of Missouri's 6th Congressional District – a region that includes rural areas that rely on general aviation (GA). As a member of 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. NBAA recently spoke with Graves about the value of GA to the communities he represents.
What is the value of small airplanes to businesses and communities in Missouri's 6th Congressional District?
General aviation connects businesses and communities in rural and urban America. Many businesses depend on general aviation to transport their product or business idea in a timely manner. It is particularly useful in cases where commercial service is not readily available or where products are prohibited from being transported on a commercial flight. Farmers, emergency responders and doctors also rely heavily on general aviation to spray crops, respond to an accident or reach patients who are unable to go to a hospital. The quick answer is that small airplanes have an important and positive impact in Northwest Missouri.
Being a pilot yourself, have you ever used an airplane to reach constituents, attend meetings, etc.?
I mostly fly for recreational purposes. In the past 20 years, I have flown roughly 2,000 hours, the vast majority of which were recreational in nature. It certainly can be hard to find the time though. I usually drive around the 6th District so I can make frequent stops. However, my congressional district spans 26 counties and is actually bigger than many states. So, there have been times where I have needed to use the flexibility general aviation provides to get to a meeting somewhere in Northwest Missouri.
What are some of the challenges facing small business airplane operators in your district? Your state?
Where do I begin? I hear most from aviators in my district expressing concerns about far-reaching, overly burdensome and oftentimes unnecessary Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration rules and regulations. Whether it is user fees, the Large Aircraft Security Program, airport access, security and funding or regulations on business aviation operators, people out there are very concerned.
The general public seems to have misperceptions of business aviation. Has this been something the GA Caucus has worked to correct, and how?
There are certainly misperceptions about business aviation. Many Americans remember the automakers flying their business jets to Washington, DC to ask for a taxpayer bailout. While I don't feel this particular case is at all representative of the vast majority of business aviation operations, many people in this country do feel that way. I think the General Aviation Caucus has done a tremendous job of educating and promoting the benefits of – and changing perceptions about – general aviation.
What can people do around the country to help dispel mischaracterizations of business aviation?
I hate to use a natural disaster as an example, but groups like NBAA and its Members were some of the first to respond to the earthquake in Haiti. Business aviation was transporting medical supplies, food, rescue workers and doctors to Haiti – and they were often landing in remote areas without direct connections to Port Au Prince, the Haitian capital. Keep in mind, all of this was done voluntarily and at no expense to the government. So I think it is instances like this that will hopefully change the way people characterize business aviation. Unfortunately, the media often picks up on negative stories instead of highlighting the good work GA does.