Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
made his first-ever visit to EAA AirVenture Thursday, labeling the event
“phenomenal” and said his department and the Obama Administration
are “1000 percent behind general aviation.
“We believe in it; it’s critical to
the aviation industry in America and in the world.”
He added that his department of some
55,000 employees will do everything they can “to continue a very
strong general aviation activity in America, and promote it, and do
everything we can to be helpful.”
LaHood’s remarks came during an
exclusive interview for AirVenture Today and EAA Radio on the
AirVenture grounds during his day-long visit.
LaHood, who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for
14 years before becoming Secretary of Transportation, noted general
aviation airports are “an economic engine for communities; they
provide jobs—all kinds of different jobs. They also provide a form of
transportation people wouldn’t have if it weren’t for general
“When you look at general aviation, it’s
really how aviation started,” he observed.
“Aviation didn’t start with 737s or
757s. It started with pioneers who wanted to get up in the air and they
made these planes—not dissimilar to the people who are here at
Oshkosh, who made their planes and have flown them here.”
Will GA be penalized if FAA bill
When asked if general aviation will be penalized by Congress’
latest failure Thursday to reauthorize the FAA, LaHood responded, “Not
having an FAA authorization bill is a problem. We’ve extended the
current program a number of times.” Holding his thumb and index finger
close together, he added, “This bill is about this close to getting
passed. And it’s a good bill.
“It’s a bill President Obama will
sign and it’s a good bill for general aviation.”
If he were back on Capitol Hill, LaHood
said he’d “encourage our leadership to get the people who are in the
final stages of this bill to try and make it happen here in the next 48
Apparently that won’t happen, but he
added that he thinks the bill will be passed and signed into law this
Will NexGen benefit GA?
LaHood rejected criticism of the FAA’s plans for a next-generation
air traffic control system as benefiting the FAA and airlines at general
Responding to a related question, he
said, “NexGen is absolutely critical to the aviation industry, for
safety, for saving jet fuel, for guiding planes in and out of airports
in a way that currently doesn’t exist.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in
America for next-generation technology and it’s what we hear and see
everywhere we go.”
“General aviation benefits [from NexGen]
in terms that the highest form of technology, the best technology, is
going to be in airports all over the country.
“That’s good for aviation; that takes
it to a higher level. When you take any aspect of aviation to a higher
level, everybody’s brought along,” he added.
Impressed by AirVenture’s emphasis
“I’m impressed with the programs that go on here,” LaHood added,
commenting further on his first visit to AirVenture.
“People don’t just come here to
showcase their planes; they obviously come here to learn. And I’m
really impressed with this idea of getting young people involved—that
is the future. No question about it.
“If you’re going to continue the
legacy of Oshkosh and continue the legacy of general aviation, the best
and easiest way to do it is to get young people energized and
enthused,” he suggested.
“I have no doubt when these young
people go up in airplanes and have a chance to meet with these aviators
and meet with these general aviation enthusiasts, they get very enthused
about it.” Involving the nation’s youth, Secretary LaHood concluded,
is a way to ensure AirVenture will “be around for another 100