Engage with Your Government
By Cade Clark
We live in interesting times. Your perspective on the recent government shutdown may range from enthusiasm to exasperation, or somewhere in between. You may view yourself as Republican, Democrat, leaning right, leaning left. Maybe you are red, blue, or purple.
President Trump has now been in office for one year. Maybe you feel he is draining the swamp. Or maybe you feel he is just adding to the quagmire. The beauty of America is that while respecting the rule of law, we can engage at all levels to provide our voice and perspective on the direction of our great country.
The Rule of Law
The US helicopter industry is heavily regulated, with many of those regulations derived in the pursuit of safety. From aircraft certification and training requirements to how we fly from one destination to another, everything from A to Z seems to be addressed through government regulation and oversight. For all of our reactions (good or bad) about regulations — and the resulting paperwork — they can provide benefits.
One result of our system is the certainty it provides. Did the avgas you just purchased meet the listed specifications? How did the new charter outfit you just hired obtain their operating certificate? By meeting the FAA’s requirements, or did somebody pay off someone? In some countries, you would have to wonder, but our robust system of regulation and oversight — supported by our respect for the rule of law — means that we don’t wonder but instead go about our business.
Currently, part of the conversation in the halls of government is to what degree should industry participate in the rule-making process, and how much should government regulate. Very quickly, the dialogue can degrade to immovable positions of us vs. them, business vs. government, my ideology over yours.
As a young staffer working for a U.S. senator, I was always amazed when constituents would call, fired up because the senator “was working with that devil from the other state.” I always respectfully tried to let the constituent know that the staffer working in the other state was getting the same calls, berating his senator for working with the devil from our state. As strongly as you feel about your position, the opposing party feels just as strongly.
While Congress clashes over large policy issues such as the size of the government and what roles the government should engage in — issues that well-meaning, patriotic people can have fundamental disagreements on (and will continue to disagree on) — we should not lose sight of the certainty and safety our system has produced. Working together, industry and government have created common-sense approaches to our industry’s regulations and laws. They can and should continue this work to improve our legal framework.
The Power of Association
This sounds great on paper, but how does one accomplish that? How does a pilot flying all day to make payroll also engage the government? That’s where your association comes in.
HAI represents you in Congress, and it’s our job to be your voice in Washington, D.C. We are here when you can’t be, and in politics, as the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. When it comes to the fight against privatizing the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system, HAI is working hard to keep our industry off the menu. We have prevented ATC privatization from moving past the House in the FAA reauthorization bill and are working to ensure that it is not attached to a potential infrastructure bill the House will soon draft.
Just as we see better results when industry and government work together to create regulations and laws, the results are more effective when the association and its members work with one voice. We saw that with our legislative efforts on ATC privatization. HAI, along with the other general aviation associations, was the first line of defense in stopping the bill. However, once our members got involved and voiced their opposition to their elected officials, we saw the power of our collective voice.
Politicians are truly interested in listening to their constituents. Whether that’s because they want to represent your views or need your support to win reelection is open to interpretation. But the point is that you will be listened to.
That is the power of grassroots advocacy. However, unless you have a dazzling following on Twitter or other social media platforms, one single voice may not cut through the clutter. That’s why an association is so important. A single strand from a rope is easy to break. However, the collective strength of all the strands woven together into one rope creates a power that can be close to unbreakable.
When our members speak out, it empowers all members of the association, which HAI then leverages in Congress. Offices are always very interested in how many members we represent in their specific district or state. Representing a large, active membership from the home district gets representatives’ attention very quickly.
Working together, we can have an impact on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t require much of your time either. You can be involved as much or little as you like. It can be as simple as emailing, texting, or sending a Facebook post about your opposition to ATC privatization to your elected officials. You can do all that by simply texting ROTOR to 40649. You will receive a link that takes you to the HAI advocacy page where you can edit prepopulated letters to send to your representative.
The Real World
If you have a little more time, consider inviting your elected officials to your business. What better way for us to educate officials than by showing them how things work in the real world!
Invite your representatives to your company. Let them see your economic impact to the region, meet with your employees, and hear how regulations can impact your business. We can describe a situation all day long in Washington, D.C., but it won’t have the same impact as seeing it firsthand. There is a reason why a picture is worth a thousand words.
Congress has their long summer recess in August. When you read this, some of you may still be shoveling snow and can only dream of summer. But if you don’t commit and plan now, August will come and go without a visit by your representative. If you need help with preparing for a visit or even figuring out who your elected officials are, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. HAI is here to help. Your outreach and interaction with your representatives will strengthen the entire industry.
Finally, don’t forget to register to vote, and most importantly, make sure you do go vote. Circle the dates of the primary as well as the general election on your calendar. This is your opportunity to cast your ballot and register your voice. There is always a lot of attention paid to the general election, but primaries can be just as important. And remember, when we talk about elections, that includes federal, state, and local. Your local elections are just as important as the one where we elect a president.
So enjoy the interesting times we live in. Don’t pull back thinking your voice can’t be heard or doesn’t have an impact. It already has! Just look at ATC privatization.
Get engaged. It doesn’t matter if your efforts are large or small. What matters is we stand united. Left or right, red, blue, or purple. We can work together and with the government to get common-sense regulations and laws enacted. We can keep our freedom to fly and let Congress know that our ATC is not for sale. Your association is standing strong with the entire membership to keep the rotors turning.