Henderson Gleaner, October 3, 2014
COMMENT: General aviation vital to American economy
When I formed my company, Mainstream Commercial Divers Inc., over 25
years ago, we learned quickly that having our own airplane was integral
to our success. Whether it was quickly getting to locations to perform
emergency repairs, or delivering specialized equipment, our aircraft
has helped us to quickly and effectively serve the many important
infrastructure projects we are working on.
Just last November, an American Electric Power (AEP) hydroelectric dam
in Virginia encountered an outage which weakened the energy output of
the entire facility. Through the use of our company plane, we were able
to get to Virginia quickly and immediately began work on finding a
solution. After developing a recovery plan we flew back to our
headquarters in Murray, Ky., and prepared the specialized equipment we
would need for the job.
I am not alone. Across the country, many other businesses utilize general aviation in similar ways.
Businesses across the spectrum rely on general aviation to operate more
efficiently, to reach far-off plants and suppliers, and to make better
use of limited time and human resources. In fact, 85 percent of
businesses that operate their own aircraft are small to mid-sized
businesses and a recent study by NEXA Advisors found that small and
medium enterprises that utilize general aviation perform better than
ones that don't.
In total, general aviation accounts for over $1.7 billion in economic
activity statewide each year. Across the country, general aviation is a
$150 billion-a-year industry that supports 1.2 million American jobs.
And, emergency medical responders, law enforcement, fire departments
and other emergency services all use general aviation for some of the
exact same operational advantages that my plane provides to my
business. In the aftermath of natural disasters when roadways are
blocked, power lines are down and critical supplies are needed, general
aviation can bring in much needed supplies and medical assistance.
But far too many people underestimate the benefits that general
aviation can provide to our communities. Consequentially, some in
Washington have proposed adding a $100-per-flight user fee tax on the
businesses and farms that use general aviation — a move that would hurt
small businesses and farms significantly.
Fortunately, our elected officials in Kentucky seem to realize the
value of general aviation as a tool to increase productivity and
accessibility. Gov. Steve Beshear recently declared July to be
"Aviation Appreciation Month." In addition, Reps. Brett Guthrie, Thomas
Massie and Hal Rogers are members of the General Aviation Caucus, which
works to protect general aviation. I applaud their efforts and I
believe it is critical for everyone to realize just how important this
form of transportation is to our businesses and communities — here in
Murray and all across the state of Kentucky.
Craig Fortenbery is the President of Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc.
and the Association of Diving Contractors, and is a member of the
Alliance for Aviation Across America.