Aviation Advocacy: When Many Speak as One
I’ve never been a political person. However, due to the exposure I’ve had seeing what National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is doing and the issues out there facing us, the more I realize that my voice really does matter.
And that we, as an industry, can truly make an impact if we rally together and speak with a unified voice.
Since joining the NBAA Associate Member Advisory Council (AMAC) in March of 2012, I’ve learned just how crucial it is to have members of our congress and senate understand exactly what business aviation does.
One important aspect is NBAA’s advocacy in Washington DC. I’ve also come to realize that they’ve taken an incredibly active role “on the hill,” but unfortunately they alone do not have the deep pockets to support such lobbying efforts.
We need to realize that each one of us have a voice. And if we band together, that singular voice can really have a huge impact.
Making our Voices Heard
As members of the business aviation community, we need to regularly tell our story to government decision makers. That means sharing with them why we’re of value, what we contribute to the economy and, especially, what we contribute to the economy of small communities.
My voice matters and so does yours.
It’s important to make our unified voice known to our elected officials as forcefully as we possibly can. Remember, it’s too late to complain about legislation that has been passed if you didn’t make your views against it known before it was voted on!
You’re a key stakeholder of your elected officials. In many cases, our local voices actually have much more impact than those of the Washington insiders. We’re the ones who put them into office, we’re their hometown constituents. Our communications at the local, state and national level can be as simple as sending an email to our mayor, a letter to the governor, or attending a town meeting when our Congressperson is in town.
Regardless of the means of communication, the key is to remind them just how important business aviation is – what it is that we do, how we are the face of general aviation, and why it’s continued success is important for America.
So What Can You Do? How Can You Help?
If you’re a part of a regional group or industry association, meet with everyone at the same time on a regular basis; not just when it’s time to take action. Regular meetings can be used to keep members updated on pending legislation, critical Congressional committee meetings and other milestones in the legislative process. It sometimes takes months, if not years, to pass legislation, so the more time we have to act and lobby, the better our chances are.
When legislative issues do in fact come up, those regular meetings you’ve had ensure your members are educated, focused, and ready to do their part in communicating with their officials with a unified voice.
Here are 10 simple tips on aviation advocacy
If you’re looking for ways to best contact your elected officials at the local, state and national level, here are some options:
1. Request a meeting
We recommend scheduling a personal, face-to-face meeting with your local Congressional representative. Members of Congress are generally very attentive to their constituents, who live and work in the districts they are charged with representing. Most Members of Congress have staff responsible for coordinating such meetings.
2. Bring them into your circle
Invite all elected and appointed officials to a local or regional NBAA meeting (e.g., NorCal, LIBAA or ORBAA) to help them better understand what aviation does as well as why it’s important to their constituents.
3. Show them aviation’s influence
Ask your Mayor and members of the Town/City Council to meet with you at a local airshow so you can explain why you’re passionate about aviation and how it helps your career.
4. Conduct a hangar tour
Invite key elected officials to tour a few hangars on the field so they can see how aviation departments operates. Even better, ask your company’s senior leadership team to get involved and speak to them about how aviation supports your business and the area economy.
5. Leverage Contact Congress
Use the Contact Congress resources on the NBAA website, which allows those of us in business aviation to make our voices heard about the policies most important to us and our industry.
Attend and/or volunteer for your state’s aviation community events. For example, many states (like California) have an annual Aviation Day to bring attention to the importance of aviation.
7. Show them the money
Show your support for the aviation industry by writing a check to the NBAA Political Action Committee(PAC). This PAC is critical in communicating our concerns to federal and state officials, as well as lobbying to pass legislation beneficial to our industry.
8. Get local
Volunteer for one of the many NBAA Local and Regional Strategic Focus Teams to support their efforts as they advocate for business aviation across the country.
9. Use NBAA’s messaging
Visit the No Plane No Gain website, jointly sponsored by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, to access pre-written documents you can use when communicating with your government officials. You will also find valuable talking points on why companies of all sizes, across the US, rely on airplanes for business, as well as how business aviation is pivotal to America’s economy and transportation system.
Grow relationships with your elected officials through the NBAA resource, NBAA’s Member Guide For Building a Relationship With Your Elected Officials. This online resource explains why relationship-building is important, how to get started with it, and how to make visits to your elected officials productive and, most importantly, successful. The guide even includes a checklist to help keep track of the relationship-building process.
What Should You Say?
It’s never too early to begin your relationship with your Congressperson and other elected officials. Even if there is nothing currently pending related to aviation, reach out to them.
Introduce yourself. Find things you may have in common. Start with small talk and work your way up to talking about the importance of the aviation industry for their constituency.
Using real-life examples in their own districts to demonstrate the value we bring to corporate America will help to deliver the message home.
Considering the fact that Congressmen and Women frequently fly to and from their districts to Washington, D.C., it’s actually pretty easy to prove how access to the national air transportation system ensures good jobs remain in their backyard.
At API, we feel it’s essential to let our elected officials how important it is to keep our local and regional airports operational, our air traffic control towers manned, and that we don’t pay for user fees or for access to small towns and communities through a fuel tax.
We need to also tell them that we’re really going to be facing a lot of challenges in the future. The more we get our voice out, both individually and collectively, the stronger we’ll be.
I recently heard an elected official from Kansas say that the two things every small town needs for their economy to succeed is a hospital and an airport. They need those because the airport allows accessibility – it allows a small manufacturer to be there and get parts flown in. Anecdotes like this can really have an impact when told to those whose votes we will need down the road.
Know your Aviation Advocacy Issues
Right now, there is a pending federal reauthorization bill that’s going to define the future of general aviation. If our elected officials don’t hear from us on how important passage is, they may be influence by others seeking its defeat.
We’ve seen critical votes decided by just a handful of votes in Congress and it’s a risk we don’t want to take! Communicating regularly and in concert with one another to our elected representatives (both in DC and our 50 statehouses) ensures our message will remain in front of them as they cast their votes.
Some upcoming legislative challenges this year include:
- User fees
- Restricted access to airspace and airports
- The FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which is set to expire in September of 2015
In closing, I encourage you and all members to get involved in discussions and strengthen our hand in some of the legislative battles we may face down the road.
If you’d like to be an aviation advocate, I’m happy to alert you when there are issues where we could use your help. If so, please email me your name and email contact information and I’ll add you to my volunteer list.