The AV Board of Trade recently made its annual legislative trip to our nation’s capitol, the 57th annual trip to be exact, since their first visit as the AV Progress Association.
As always, appointments are made around topics included in the white papers that are compiled throughout the year. Committee chairs in transportation, environment, healthcare and aerospace all contribute to the pages of talking points hand delivered, and now also e-mailed, to each appointment.
Some wonder why our delegation travels each year to our nation’s capitol when we could catch up with our elected officials in our district. This has been my 5th or 6th trip with the AV Board of Trade in different capacities and I see a tremendous value in these legislative trips. We focus on something “they don’t already know.” Rather than “preaching to the choir” about items that they are also working on, we inform them about pressing news “hot off the presses”.
That old cliché of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” really applies. We have to be vocal about our needs and wants. Each member of our annual delegation carries a copy of our white papers that they have read and know inside and out. We make appointments with both Congressmen Howard “Buck” McKeon and Kevin McCarthy, as well as Sen. Diane Feinstein, the FAA and our contractors. Depending upon time, we try to stop by and exchange information with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and NASA as well as catching up with the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
One of our top priorities each year is Edwards Air Force Base and protecting its airspace from encroachment. Not everyone that we meet during our legislative trips knows where the Antelope Valley is, but they know where Edwards Air Force Base is. This trip reminded me once again of how fortunate we are to have Edwards Air Force Base a part of our community, and our national security.
Due to the Air Force Materiel Command reorganization, we also planned this trip to collaborate once again with our friends at the Arnold Community Council who represent Arnold Engineering Development Center [Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.] “AEDC is a one-stop center for ground development test.” They are working diligently “in establishing a Congressional Range & Testing Center Caucus.” We also caught up with a delegation from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., also a part of AFMC and the Air Force Test Center [headquartered at Edwards].
We also met with Katie Wheeler Mathews, deputy director, in Governor Jerry Brown’s office and briefed her on our region. She indicated Brown’s passion for transportation. We reminded her of our “inland port” as well as our space port. We will take this direction for our trip to Sacramento in May. We invited the governor to our valley, offering a VIP red carpet tour of all we have to offer, highlighting transportation.
Our delegation made a stop at Edison International and discussed renewables and the capacity of the current system to support new green generation projects with Polly Gault, executive vice president.
Another stop was at Boeing with an update from Al Hoffman, site manager for Edwards AFB and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, on the current challenges facing the workforce at Edwards AFB and Air Force Plant 42. We received an update on the Phantom Eye and the KC-46 Tanker, the F-15SA (Saudi Arabia) and the Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
Wherever we went, we discussed the importance, and the mission of the control tower at Plant 42 just receiving word that it was on a FAA list of possible closures. We also discussed the possible UAV corridor (or air route which is the FAA term) between Air Force Plant 42 and Edwards Air Force Base/NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and the current challenges of building, assembly, test and disassembly to transport to Edwards AFB or other test areas to access R2508 air space.
“As always, we received a warm welcome from our local congressional representatives, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarty,” said Drew Mercy, AV Board of Trade president. “Both of them were eager to step in on behalf of the Antelope Valley, working together to develop a strategy to keep those towers open.”
“Sitting down with the FAA officials themselves, I was relieved to learn that at that time no final decision had been made, so I sought to convince them how important these towers were for jobs, public safety and national security,” Mercy continued. “The idea of shutting down the FAA’s control tower at Plant 42 was perhaps the most ludicrous. When considering the small cost of the tower’s operations against the services it provides to the Air Force and defense contractors, it just didn’t make sense, and fortunately the FAA came to the same conclusion when they announced later that Plant 42’s tower would be spared.”
It is this kind of proactive approach this business advocacy non-profit has initiated since its inception which receives attention and get results.