Commentary: A Conversation with GAMA's CEO

Most of us know Alan Klapmeier as the CEO and Chairman of Cirrus Design, and part of the duo (with his brother Dale) who brought the Cirrus SR-20, SR-22 and now Vision SJ50 jet into the world, but did you know that this year Alan Klapmeier is also serving as the Chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturer's Association (GAMA)?

"GAMA is very much a behind the scenes organization, because the members are a couple of handfuls of manufacturers," explains Klapmeier. Some of those manufacturers build the radios and electronics, engines and other components that most of us use in the Experimental aircraft that we build and fly.

"We are clearly working toward the same goals--to help general aviation," says Klapmeier. "The largest issue on GAMA's plate right now is next-generation airspace issues, and how can we get that to work. And we do have other hot issues, for example 100 octane fuel going away, environmental concerns, liabilities, but from an industry point of view, changing how airplanes interact in the airspace and with each other, that's big for us," he says.

So how do they advocate for general aviation? Klapmeier believes that there has to be not just consensus between government and industry, but something he deems "rational consensus."

How do we get there? "What is very important on issues as large as next-generation airspace is that we break it into pieces," he says. "You've got to have a path to a goal. And the first steps on the path have to be doable tasks. There are pieces to the big goal of making next generation airspace work, and we need to get on with implementing them first so that we can progress toward that ultimate goal."

One big piece of that puzzle will be exacting regulatory assurances from the FAA that general aviation aircraft can continue to have unrestricted access to airspace that is considered congested, and that the equipment required to fly in "congested" airspace never be so onerously expensive as to prohibit general aviation aircraft from occupying "congested" airspace. Technology is a great thing, but it needs to be affordable if everyone is going to have to use it. GAMA hopes that its advocacy can help keep the airspace usable by all.

Contributing Editor Amy Laboda is a freelance writer and editor of Aviation for Women magazine. She's an ATP-rated pilot and instrument and multi-engine Flight Instructor with a passion for teaching and flying in light aircraft. Her steady rides these days are a 18-year old Kitfox IV and a fresh Van's RV-10.

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