Aviation and the air transport system has become an increasingly complex industry with substantial play at the federal, state, and local level. It’s not the simple highly-regulated aviation system of the 1950s and 60s anymore. It’s a rapidly changing, high stakes industry where lots of money talks and lobbyists are key educators for national decision makers.
Houston and Texas are very lucky to have an “aviation-smart” governor who’s devoted to furthering aviation and keeping Texas strong in flight. Locally, Houston is also lucky to have a huge base of aviators and engineers who vote smartly to keep flight-friendly officials in office. Everything from Texas’ efforts to increase Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) enrollments to Texas’ activism in Congress to spread the world about competition in aviation has led to Houston’s robust aviation economy.
Federal Decisions and Becoming Involved
Small decisions at the federal level can have drastic effects at the local level and there’s almost always an aviation subcommittee being formed, being interviewed or researching the future of American aviation. While the decisions made in Washington DC seem far away in Texas, they have far-reaching effects.
Just one example was the expiration of a corporate tax benefit to aviation companies which allowed them to devote more money to research and development. In an era of “evil corporation perception”, it’s very important for industry professionals to educate fellow Americans, local voters, and unknowing lawmakers about how certain tax breaks actually help- not hurt- local economies.
With this in mind, how can you not become involved?
How to Make a Difference
How does an average aviation professional local to Houston become involved? Better yet, how does any aviator become involved in spreading the word on aviation and aviation-specific issues? The first and foremost thing you need to do to get involved is to start with local efforts and local organizations already working to get involved. Local efforts are often most organized and can feed your efforts, comments, and concerns up a chain of command to reach the right people and decision makers.
The most prevalent national organizations are the National Business Aviation Administration (NBAA), Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA), The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). All of these organizations represent the aviation and aerospace community, and they also provide resources to those who want to become involved with activism.
NBAA is one of the largest organizations with both regional and national expertise. NBAA provides a kit for those who are just getting involved and they also have a guide for providing comments to federal regulatory proposals. When submitting comments, it’s a good idea to collaborate within the industry for a unified voice, either within your company or with partners in your field. NBAA helps aviation professionals plan visits to their local lawmakers and federal regulators.
AOPA is another national advocacy group with a national program called the Airport Support Network, which serves as a liaison to local airports to ensure their issues are known and upcoming changes are considered by pilots and aircraft owners. AOPA also funnels concerns from regional and local airports to Capital Hill. Specifically, they drive legislation via Congress and Representative that best represent pilots and aircraft owners. Just recently, AOPA was a major supporter of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which is currently in legislation.
AIAA is a membership organization which fosters research and development of the aviation industry. If you’re involved in aerospace education or research, AIAA is your best resource for becoming involved. AIAA is also the organization of choice for engineers. AIAA actively lobbies lawmakers in DC to promote funding for increasing aviation research and providing resources to new professionals. AIAA is actively tied to the Airport Legislative Alliance, which lobbies national decision makers on issues concerning airport management and transportation issues. By interviewing with these lobbyists organizations (working with your company or as a private entity) you can funnel your comments directly to lawmakers.