Aviation groups: users must lobby local officials

 - November 25, 2009, 7:48 AM

The alphabet organizations that champion the cause of aviation to elected officials and government agencies can’t do it all alone. That was the message at a recent Westchester Aviation Association (WAA) meeting held at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y. On the national, regional, state and local levels, organizations that speak for their business and general aviation constituents are discovering that the concerns they raise are in many cases the first times elected officials have heard of the issues.

“The saying is and has always been that all politics are local,” said WAA president and former NBAA chairman Jeff Lee. “There is only so much that our tremendous general aviation associations can do for us inside the Beltway. When they approach a congressional representative inside the Beltway they are just another lobby [group]. When the local folks at White Plains, Teterboro or Morristown approach their politicians, they are voters, they are constituents, they are people who can influence what happens to that politician’s career, so we need to speak out and tell them how we feel.” When pending legislation threatens the activities of general aviation, such as in cases of community encroachment upon existing airports, individuals are encouraged to become more active and to join local user groups to better express their needs.

Lisa Piccone, NBAA’s senior vice president for government affairs, cited industry criticism of the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program as an example of the collective power of individual voices. Based on the more than 7,000 comments filed, the TSA is revising the proposal to incorporate feedback from operators and airport officials.

Even on the local level such activism is important, according to Paul Lange of the Connecticut Business Aviation Association, which has made a concerted effort to meet local politicians and the leaders of the state’s transportation committee. “What we learned from our legislators was that they hear from the auto interests, they hear from trucking interests, they hear from boating interests, but they never hear from aviation interests, and they encouraged us to rectify that.” Based on its interaction with the legislators, the association was recently able to defeat a proposed moratorium aimed at preventing Bridgeport Airport from acquiring a parcel of land for use as a runway safety area.