This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
A group of rural, agricultural, business, and public health organizations have joined the chorus of calls for the U.S. Congress to extend fuel tax relief to general aviation. Congress in March approved a temporary suspension of the aviation excise taxes, including fuel taxes, on commercial aviation as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. But the fuel taxes remained intact for non-commercial operators.
In a June 4 letter to the House and Senate leadership, 16 organizations praised the assistance provided through the Paycheck Protection Program, but said, “The general aviation industry, which includes all operations outside of commercial and military aviation, needs additional relief.”
The letter noted the plunge in general aviation operations across the nation, saying some airports have faced traffic declines of up to 95 percent. “Over a thousand rural communities have already been affected by this crisis, and this is exacerbated by the fact that over 11 million Americans live in a county that does not have a hospital, and an additional 18 million live in a county with no intensive care unit,” the letter states.
“General aviation and our network of airports support the health and economic well-being of communities across the country,” added Andrew Moore, executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, among the signatories of the letter. “It is crucial that as businesses, farms, and communities struggle to recover, that we support general aviation, which is a crucial economic driver representing $247 billion in annual economic output nationwide and 1.2 million American jobs."
Betsy Huber, president of the National Grange, added, "General aviation is critical to food and agricultural production, which is based in rural communities across the country…We should make sure that rural America has every tool available to make a strong recovery.”
The Alliance for Aviation Across America, which helped coordinate the letter, pointed to issues found in meatpacking plants across numerous states and issues that rural counties had had with increased cases. About 20 percent of the 2,743 counties that have had Covid-19 cases do not have a hospital, the association estimated.
"General aviation and community airports are a lifeblood to towns and small cities across America,” said Niel Ritchie, senior advisor at the Main Street Project. “We must support this critical lifeline."