Washington, DC, March 2, 2021 – In testimony before the Aviation Subcommittee to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen emphasized that while thousands of small general aviation (GA) businesses that support 1.2 million jobs experienced significant disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is resilient and looking toward the future.
In his testimony before the hearing, titled “COVID-19’s Effects on U.S. Aviation and the Flight Path to Recovery,” Bolen spoke of the pandemic’s profound and lingering toll on general aviation aircraft operators and businesses across the country.
“Beginning in March 2020, the GA industry began to suffer significant impacts due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions and shutdowns,” he said. “This severe and unprecedented reduction in flight activity had devastating consequences from fixed-based operators, to maintenance shops, charter operators and GA airports.”
The U.S. aircraft maintenance industry alone lost 50,000 jobs due to the pandemic, Bolen continued, and more than 80% of companies saw revenue declines compared with 2019. General aviation airports suffered steep drop-offs to traffic and revenue – some by nearly 90% – and thousands of small and mid-size businesses generating $77 billion in annual labor income faced unprecedented challenges.
“Despite these unrelenting challenges, the GA community continues its commitment to COVID-19 relief efforts,” Bolen said, citing companies such as lab service provider Quest Diagnostics, which utilizes GA aircraft to promptly transport COVID tests for processing, and air charter operators that continued performing missions to transport human organs for transplant.
Bolen also thanked lawmakers for quick passage of the CARES Act in March 2020, which contained the Air Carrier Payroll Support Program (PSP) and Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which collectively brought much-needed relief to citizens and companies across the country. Both programs have since been extended through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
In his remarks, Bolen also thanked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies for rapidly standing up programs that provided much-needed relief for general aviation. For example, the entire GA community worked with the FAA to develop Special Federal Aviation Regulation SFAR 118, which maintained safety while reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure by providing additional time for operators to meet certain FAA requirements.
However, he cautioned that further relief measures might be needed, even as the nation takes initial steps to emerge from the pandemic. “The ongoing reductions in business travel, and the potential for additional COVID-related [impacts] create significant uncertainty for our community, and we appreciate your consideration of future GA relief needs,” Bolen said.
Despite COVID-19’s detrimental effects, Bolen also emphasized the many ways business aviation continued to innovate and strengthen over the past year, including a major commitment to sustainability, by focusing on the increased production and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The industry has also committed to several initiatives to encourage a more diverse, equitable and inclusive business aviation community and witnessed impressive ongoing development of near-future technologies such as advanced air mobility transportation.
“The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the GA industry; however, it has also demonstrated our resiliency and critical importance to thousands of communities,” Bolen concluded. “While there certainly have challenges on the horizon, we are optimistic about the future and thank this subcommittee for its continuing commitment to all aviation industry sectors.”