Aviation’s Man in Washington

Congressman Sam Graves represents two groups: the citizens of Missouri’s 6th District and private pilots.

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[The upshot was] the Aviation Trust Fund, which takes away general aviation traffic from the big airports. But now that that system is in place, you see competition for where that money should go.

What other concerns are being addressed by the caucus?

We’ve got searches by [U.S. customs and] Border Protection. We’ve cataloged 40 now, and they’re illegal. If they don’t have a warrant, they cannot search your aircraft. Why they’re searching flights within the borders is beyond me. We’re pushing back on that.

Other issues include FAA exemptions for the Living History Flight Experience, in terms of certification of antiques and warbirds, allowing them to continue to fly.

In 1996, the FAA began granting aviation museums and foundations an exemption from certain requirements that allowed them to charge fees for carrying passengers in multi-engine World War II bombers for the purpose of preserving U.S. military aviation history. In 2007, the agency expanded the program to other types of warbirds and antiques. Two years ago, there were public hearings on what types of aircraft could be included. Where does that stand?

The FAA still has not given us a ruling. And, you know, some of these organizations, particularly these museums, that’s the only way they can fund keeping that airplane in the air.

What do you think are the most effective ways to grow the pilot base in the country?

That one’s really tough. It’s fairly easy to get kids excited about aviation, just the same way all the rest of us got excited about aviation. Just taking that first ride, or going to an airshow, or seeing an airplane up close. The hard part, though, is when the reality of how much it costs sets in. That’s the biggest problem we’re facing.

I do know that the more airshows we have, and the more air meets we have, the more flying breakfasts we have, the more interest we’re going to see. As an aviation community, I think we can do a better job of fostering that.

What are some of the successes you’ve seen?

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