Each month, volunteer pilots from Angel Flight Central fly patients needing specialized medical care, including chemotherapy and dialysis, to hospitals throughout Kansas. Many of these patients are from rural areas and would otherwise be hard-pressed to receive the care they need.
These flights are part of General Aviation (GA), which includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. Right now GA is being imperiled by misguided plans in Washington, D.C. If these proposals are enacted, the outlook could be grim for patients who use Angel Flight Central, as well as for millions of other people throughout the country who depend on General Aviation for services and jobs.
Among the proposals are new costs and regulations. Since Angel Flight Central pilots already donate their time and planes and pay for their own fuel, these increased costs could ground them. The impact on patients who live in rural Kansas could be devastating, because they would have to drive long distances to receive care.
The new charges and regulations would involve not only medical volunteer organizations. With an estimated 65 percent of General Aviation flights conducted for public service and business, many industries and services would be affected, including agriculture, emergency medical evacuation, law enforcement, aerial fire-fighting, package delivery and the Civil Air Patrol.
In addition, millions of jobs depend on GA, which pumps more than $150 billion into the U.S. economy. Two members of Congress deem GA so essential that they formed a caucus to educate their peers on its value to the American economy and transportation system.
Recently, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world's largest pilot organization with more than 415,000 members, launched General Aviation Serves America. The goal of this national grassroots campaign is to educate policymakers, opinion leaders and the public about the vital role GA plays in our local communities and the nation's economy. Actors Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman, both avid pilots, are volunteering their services in support of the campaign. (To learn more about the General Aviation Serves America program, please take a few minutes to visit www.gaservesamerica.com.)
The importance of GA and its impact on the citizens of Kansas cannot be overstated. For more than 80 years, General Aviation has played a significant role in the lives of millions of Americans across the country. I hope you will join me in our efforts to ensure that it's around for another 80 years, and well beyond.
Fuller is president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.