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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedTransportation secretary’s first visit to AirVenture “phenomenal”
Story and photo by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside

U.S. 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 aviation.”

“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 fails?
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 hours.”

Apparently that won’t happen, but he added that he thinks the bill will be passed and signed into law this fall.

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 aviation’s expense.

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 on children
“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 years.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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