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President's Perspective

Advocacy in Focus at NBAA2011 and Beyond

By Ed Bolen

NBAA President and CEO Ed BolenNBAA's Annual Meeting & Convention always provides an opportunity to take stock of the industry's opportunities and challenges, and that was true at this year's show, held last month in Las Vegas, NV.

For example, as I noted during the Convention, a number of alarming policies are emanating from Washington. Government officials, eager to address the country's budget deficit, have once again put aviation user fees back on the table, and have proposed lengthening tax depreciation schedules for business aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration has moved to limit operators' ability to opt out of having their flights tracked through the Block Aircraft Registration Request program. And as we look ahead to an election year, some officials are disparaging the industry for political gain.

Yes, business aviation faces headwinds in the policy arena, and that reality was certainly in focus at the Convention. But what NBAA2011 also made clear is the size and importance of the business aviation community – a reality well understood by a host of policymakers.

The support from elected officials was a topic I discussed during a gathering of reporters at the Convention. I noted that one quarter of the members in the U.S. House of Representatives belong to the House General Aviation Caucus, and more than one third of U.S. senators belong to that chamber's GA Caucus. More than one-half of the states in the U.S. have issued proclamations recognizing the importance of business aviation. And, 77 mayors in 44 different states have publicly proclaimed their support for general aviation.

What these numbers mean is that in a difficult policy environment like the one presently confronting us, we are not alone. We have allies who are ready to be counted in support of business aviation.

But, while it's critically important to have allies, we know that each of us in the industry has a responsibility to be an advocate. As the old adage goes, "there is strength in numbers" – especially if people are speaking with a unified voice.

That voice could be heard at NBAA's Convention, where top federal regulators attending the show heard directly from business aircraft operators, manufacturers and service providers, gaining a better understanding of the industry.

That education process needs to take place throughout the year, and NBAA provides a number of tools to help ensure everyone in the industry can take part. To name just one, the association's online Contact Congress resource makes it easy to ensure your members of Congress know who you are, and what issues are important to you.

As this year's Convention made clear, it's never been more important for each of us to remain fully engaged in advancing the priorities of the business aviation community. By working together in a unified effort, we'll ensure we're in control of the future of business aviation.

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