In an effort to boost funding for airports and address the shortage of workers in the aeronautics industry, Washington Representative Tom Dent recently introduced three pieces of legislation.
“Our aviation industry is facing a critical pilot shortage. It is impacting technicians, instructors and other related aviation occupations as well,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake. “I am working to find a way to draw more of our young people into aviation careers. This would also grow our rural economic development as we improve our airports and increase employment in this industry.”
House Bill 1455 would address the shortage of workers in the aeronautics industry by increasing the training and employment of commercial pilots, airline transport pilots, avionics technicians, aircraft maintenance technicians, and certified flight instructors in Washington.
“There was a public hearing on House Bill 1455 on Wednesday. Alaska Air and Horizon, Central Washington University, Clover Park Technical College and the Washington Aviation Alliance all testified in strong support of the bill,” said Dent.
House Bill 1456 would establish a community aviation revitalization loan program. Dent’s legislation on the loan program passed last year but was vetoed by the governor. He has been working with the governor on a fix.
“The program is aimed at improving Washington’s smaller airports by funding needed capital and preservation projects. The bill would also establish a task force to oversee the program,” said Dent. “I believe we have an agreement to get this bill through the Legislature this year.”
House Bill 1457 would redistribute aircraft fuel tax revenue to assist with air cargo expansion, aviation education and rural economic development.
“This bill would change current distribution of the aircraft fuel retail tax and reallocate one percent of the total tax revenue to the state aeronautics account,” said Dent.
Representative Dent’s support of aviation has been noted and appreciated by the aviation community in Washington State. “We’re lucky to have Representative Dent as an advocate for aviation,” said David Fleckenstein, Director of Aviation for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “As an aviator and airport user, he understands what it takes to operate and maintain our airport system.”
Fleckenstein said his bills are all great endeavors for the state and the advancement of aeronautics. “He also clearly appreciates airports as gateways to communities and the prospects they bring for rural economic development,” said Fleckenstein. “We truly appreciate his efforts and support.”
As the only professional pilot in the Legislature, Dent has taken an active interest in aviation issues since being elected in 2014. He became a pilot in 1976, and soon after founded his own aviation business, which offered aerial application and flight instruction.
The 105-day 2019 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 28.