Most people don’t know that general aviation is a vital part of life and business in Kansas. General aviation — any flight that isn’t commercial or military — creates 90,000 jobs in Kansas, supports a payroll of $4.4 billion and provides $20.6 billion in economic benefit to the state.
Garmin, the company for which I work, recently helped host a rally at its new warehouse and distribution center in Olathe to celebrate the general aviation industry. What was noticeable about this rally was the support for the industry in speaker turnout, which included U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, Kansas Lieutenant Governor Tracey Mann and Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland.
The Kansas congressional delegation’s support for general aviation extends beyond Kansas, to their work in Washington, D.C. This couldn’t have been more evident than in the bill the House of Representatives recently passed, funding the Federal Aviation Administration for six years. The legislation, which U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, who represents Olathe, voted in favor of, bolsters aviation infrastructure, makes necessary reforms to improve American competitiveness and safety in aviation, and responsibly integrates unmanned aircraft systems.
Thanks to Yoder and Estes, it also omitted a contentious proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system that would have left the general aviation community without a meaningful seat at the table, putting the jobs the industry creates and its economic contribution at stake.
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The Senate is likely to soon consider its version of the FAA bill as well. The committee-passed bill, thanks to the efforts of Moran, contains key reforms to help general aviation and rejects air traffic control privatization. It is good to know that general aviation and Kansans have similar advocates to the House members in Roberts and Moran.
General aviation matters to a lot of people in Kansas. It helps companies conduct business in places that would be difficult or impossible to reach by commercial air carriers. It helps transport sick or injured people to hospitals for treatment. It’s often the only logistical link for small communities and people who live and work in those areas. It provides enjoyment to people who own, fly and care for aircraft about which they are passionate.
As Moran said at the rally: “General aviation is a way to bring the world to Kansas and take Kansas to the world.” Garmin is proud to serve this industry, and I’m proud our representatives in Congress understand the value this industry has to Kansas and their support for it.
Phil Straub is the executive vice president and managing director of Garmin Aviation, headquartered in Olathe. He joined Garmin in 1993 as a software engineer and has held a variety of positions in aviation engineering until assuming overall aviation division leadership responsibility in 2011. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate for multi-engine, as well as a flight instructor certificate with single-engine, multi-engine and instrument privileges.