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Graves Leads General Aviation Discussion with Harrison Ford

(Washington, DC)  U.S. Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO) today led a General Aviation Discussion with actor and avid pilot Harrison Ford for the House General Aviation Caucus, which boasts roughly 170 members.  Mr. Ford talked about his interest in flying, the importance of general aviation to the American economy, and the need to promote flying among younger generations. 

“General aviation carries 166 million passengers to around 5,000 communities over 27 million flight hours each year, and more than two-thirds of these flights are for business purposes,” said Congressman Graves, Co-Chair of the House General Aviation Caucus.  “So I thank Harrison Ford for his passion about aviation, and for lending his star power to this event.  Education is key to our efforts to highlight the everyday concerns of America’s pilots, and his efforts to stand up for the little guy are appreciated.”

There was also discussion of some of the critical issues facing the general aviation community today, including a per flight user fee, which has been proposed by the Obama administration in recent years, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed closure of more than 200 air traffic control towers nationwide as a result of sequestration. 

“New fees and taxes always put up a caution flag in a difficult economy,” said Congressman Graves, who serves as Chairman of the Small Business Committee.  “I share the concerns of many aviation small businesses.  They fly on tight budgets and pay taxes on fuel.  A new fee, in addition to rising fuel costs, is asking too much.”

Of the proposed tower closures, Congressman Graves said, “I find it hard to believe that, when forced to make a five percent cut in its budget, the FAA cannot come up with better ideas than threatening to jeopardize public safety by closing towers.  Report after report has shown fraud, waste, and abuse in government programs, including at the FAA, which spends $500 million on consultants and $200 million on travel annually.  They should start there.”

Congressman Graves sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last week seeking clarification on recent actions taken by the FAA that indicate the agency is seeking to close 238 air traffic control towers nationwide due to sequestration.  The letter may be viewed here.

BACKGROUND: General Aviation (GA) is a catch-all category that includes all non-scheduled, non-military aviation.  The purpose of this House General Aviation Caucus is to inform Members and staff about the importance of GA to our economy and transportation system.

There are more than 223,000 active GA aircraft in the United States, which serve nearly 19,000 small and regional airports – many more than the 500 commercial airports in the U.S.  These airports help connect people and industries that do not always have easy access to our commercial airports. 

The GA industry employs nearly 1.3 million workers and contributes more than $150 billion to the U.S. economy annually.  In 2009, U.S. general aviation airplane manufacturers delivered 1,587 airplanes worth $9.1 billion with more than 50 percent of total billings tied to exports.  In fact, the GA industry is one of the few remaining U.S. manufacturing industries that provides a trade surplus for the U.S.  

Congressman Sam Graves and Harrison Ford listen to a question during a General Aviation Discussion.