General aviation’s real impact lies behind the numbers

04/10/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

Textron’s recent acquisition of Beechcraft and the creation of Textron Aviation shows just what a dynamic time this is for the general aviation manufacturing industry. It also offers the opportunity to step back and look at the where our business is going, in the Air Capital of the World and beyond.

In 2013, GAMA member companies supported almost 15,000 jobs throughout the state with $510 million in economic output. These numbers aren’t surprising. According to the Kansas Department of Commerce, Wichita produces more than 40 percent of the world’s general aviation aircraft.

A Kansas Aviation Economic Impact Study by the state Department of Transportation in 2010 found that general aviation airports were responsible for more than 23,000 jobs with an economic output of $5.4 billion. Nationally, general aviation provides jobs to 1.2 million people with $150 billion in annual output.

But behind these impressive numbers is the real impact of general aviation. Every day across Kansas, our industry reaches people in all walks of life. We help law enforcement track fleeing criminals from the skies, transport patients to hospitals, bring wounded veterans and their families to facilities where they can get the care they need, and transport workers and supplies to the energy sector from the Gulf of Mexico to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. We also enable a businessperson to visit multiple customers in one day and ensure a farmer is able to maintain a healthy crop.

And in June, the 2014 Citation Special Olympics Airlift will transport more than 800 athletes and their coaches from all across the country to Trenton, N.J., for this quadrennial competition and celebration of talent.

To keep doing this important work, general aviation manufacturers need smart government policies that will allow the industry to continue to succeed. We need to streamline all of the different government regulations that govern how we certify aircraft, making it easier to bring new, safety-enhancing products and technologies to customers.

The Small Airplane Revitalization Act – which Rep. Mike Pompeo sponsored, and which was just one of 72 bills signed into law last year – did just that for the light end of the market. And Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Kevin Yoder are continuing to demand certification improvements through the congressional appropriations process.

Making the regulatory process more straightforward will reduce costs and complexity, allowing more manufacturers to deliver innovative products that make it safer to fly. That seems like a good, commonsense idea everyone should be able to get behind.

We also need sensible tax policies. Too often in Washington, there are politicians who would rather grandstand and demagogue our industry than do the hard work of pursuing pro-job and pro-growth tax policies. Luckily, we have leaders like Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Lynn Jenkins on the tax-writing committees who fight for our industry and are committed to ensuring the right kind of incentives are put in place to help our businesses prosper.

In addition, we must promote exports. As The Eagle recently reported, the Export-Import Bank of the United States has supported $152 million in financing for airplanes built by Wichita manufacturers since 2012. It’s also provided more than $1 billion in financing for business aircraft and helicopters made in the United States, helping to “fill in the gap” when other financing is unavailable, according to bank chairman and president Fred Hochberg.

Ensuring that the Ex-Im bank is able to continue to promote exports of U.S.-built aircraft will help meet the demand for general aviation worldwide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions – while ensuring that the jobs to build them stay here. We need to promote more investments that will grow our exports and keep Kansans employed.

This is an exciting time to be part of general aviation community, and I’m optimistic about what lies ahead for our industry despite the challenges that increasingly confront us. We must press our elected leaders and regulators to ensure that government policies allow us to continue growing our work force, strengthen our economic impact, and, most importantly, provide people with the services that only general aviation can provide. That’s why we’ll keep fighting for good jobs in Kansas.

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