The U.S. aviation industry celebrated this week at a rally in Wichita, Kansas. There were Republicans and Democrats. CEOs and union workers. Leaders of industry and government.

What brought these diverse groups together? It was legislation the U.S. Congress actually passed. And President Barack Obama signed.

The Small Airplane Revitalization Act (SARA) is worthy of celebration. Indeed, it has the potential to launch a new era in general aviation. U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; the Wichita chapter of the International Association of Machinists; representatives of the major Wichita manufacturers and others gathered to acknowledge this truly bipartisan effort and its global impact. EASA and the regulatory agencies of most major manufacturing nations are working together to create a similar integrated approach.

Small Airplane Revitalization Act (SARA) Rally
The Right Idea at the Right Time
A diverse group gathered to acknowledge the recent signing of the Small Airplane Revitalization Act (SARA) and what it means to general aviation.

Unanimous Support

In an era of near-gridlock in U.S. politics, Pompeo’s bill passed both the U.S. House and Senate without a single vote against it. What a testament to its strength and unassailable value.

The bill requires the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt new rules governing certification of light general aviation aircraft by the end of 2015. The worthy goal: increasing safety while reducing costs.

Everyone at the rally agreed that, for years, the industry has suffered from excessive regulation that drives up the cost of producing new aircraft.

“It’s become more expensive than our traditional markets can afford,” said Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture. He added that manufacturers can’t always justify the cost of developing new products. The new regulations should help change that.

Solutions and Standard-Bearers

Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said the new law could cut manufacturing certification costs in half. He also talked about how general aviation had long needed a champion and went to Mike Pompeo three years ago as an incoming congressman. “We went to the one man who knows this business right down to his core,” Bunce said. Together they sat down, strategized and identified legislators who would co-sponsor a bill focused on safety, jobs and the American people.

I can vouch for Pompeo’s passion and knowledge of aviation. He founded Thayer Aerospace and served as its CEO for more than a decade. Our agency worked with him. Before leaving that position for new challenges, he learned a thing or two about manufacturing and delivering aircraft components.

Upon taking office in January 2011, Pompeo set about tackling the problem of overregulation. “The industry I’d been in for 17 years was in trouble,” he said.

Mike Pompeo and Sonia Greteman
Man of the hour, Congressman Mike Pompeo. — with Gail Bowen, Sonia Greteman, Mike Pompeo, Ashley Bowen Cook and Deanna Harms.

More Planes, More Jobs

Pompeo predicted that the legislation will help foster new jobs in aviation manufacturing clusters such as Wichita. Business aviation already accounts for $150 billion in economic activity and nearly 1.2 million jobs in the United States alone.

SARA delivers some seriously good news to the global aviation sector, and the folks who attended this rally were definitely celebrating.

“This is a lot of fun,” Pompeo told the crowd. “And as a member of Congress, I don’t often get to have a whole lot of fun.”

Aviation Revitalization Rally
Jim Walters, SVP, human resources, Cessna; Don Pufahl, CFO for Learjet Wichita; Debbie Gann, VP, communications & public affairs, Spirit AeroSystems; Congressman Pompeo; Frank Molina, president, IAM District 70; Pete Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association president; and Bill Boisture, Beechcraft CEO.