Taking Flight

Dear Friend,

Today, as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I introduced the bipartisan Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation infrastructure programs for the next five years.

When most folks think of aviation, they think of major airports, like those in Kansas City and St. Louis. But thousands of smaller airports dot the American countryside—like Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph that serves as the home base of the 139th Airlift Wing of the Missouri National Guard or Kirksville Regional Airport, which serves as an important Essential Air Service hub for the area. While large airports are important, so are these smaller airports that serve so many communities.

I grew up just across the road from one such airport—Gould Peterson Municipal Airport in Tarkio, Missouri. Named after my uncle, a B-24 pilot killed in World War II, my brother and I used to pump gas, wash planes, or do whatever we could to mooch a ride in one of the airplanes. It was a lot of good fun, but it was also a great opportunity to learn just how important small airports like Gould Peterson are to our rural communities. I’ve always tried to bring that understanding to the table, because a lot of folks in Washington have a bad habit about overlooking “flyover country.”

I’m proud to say this FAA reauthorization was written with our small rural airports in mind—as well as our larger airports. It’s the first bill to ever include an entire section, or title, dedicated to general aviation, for the pilots that fly crop-dusters and ferry physicians and other professionals back and forth from rural communities. The fact is, from pilots to mechanics to other workers throughout America’s aviation system, many of them get their start in GA, and we wouldn’t be the world leader in aviation without it.  This bill builds on years of work I’ve done to make sure our small airports are looked out for, but it also strengthens our aviation safety system, which is the world’s gold standard. It will also help grow our aviation workforce to address the shortage of qualified pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, and improve efficiency and operations over at the FAA, so people get where they need to be when they need to be there, and taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted in the process.

Long story short, this bipartisan bill is a big win for airports large and small, as well as the communities that depend on them, the men and women that work in aviation, and the millions of passengers who take to the skies every single day. Our airports may not always be top of mind, but just remember that if you build a mile of highway, you can go a mile. If you build a mile of runway, you can go anywhere in the world.

I’m proud to have written this bipartisan bill and I’m committed to getting this across the finish line, for America’s aviators, passengers, communities, and our airports—large and small.


Sam Graves