Members of Alpha Eta Rho – the oldest aviation organization on college campuses around the country – recently had the opportunity to visit with members of Congress and their staff to talk about a host of issues, including the ways the industry is innovating toward a sustainable, net-zero future for the next generation of aviators.

With the industry’s CLIMBING.FAST. advocacy campaign as the backdrop, about 30 fraternity members took part in the April 18 Capitol Hill event, held prior to the opening of Alpha Eta Rho’s national conference, which runs through April 21 in Reston, VA.

“NBAA and Climbing. Fast. are today providing the perfect opportunity for the young collegiate aviation professionals to have an in-person voice directly to Industry and Capitol Hill. This is a first for us, and this is an invaluable opportunity for them to not only express their questions, visions and expectations, but more importantly how to work with and benefit from congressional support,” said Bob Clement, chairman of the board of Alpha Eta Rho.

NBAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Kristie Greco Johnson gave the students a briefing on some of the aviation-specific issues being tackled in Congress – including an FAA reauthorization bill – and encouraged them to voice concerns and ask questions.

“You know how important aviation is to communities across America,” Greco Johnson said.” You can help communicate to policymakers the leadership role we play and the societal benefits we bring to the country. Members of Congress want to hear about what matters to you, why CLIMBING. FAST. is important to you and what impact aviation has on your lives.”

Reps. Rick Larsen (D-2-WA) and Chris Deluzio (D-17-PA) – and nearly a dozen congressional staffers – stopped by to speak with the students.

Larsen, who serves as ranking member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, talked about the FAA reauthorization bill passed by the House last year, which focuses on safety, workforce development, airport investment and the future of aviation. Congress, Larsen said, is working through the process of creating a bipartisan bill both the House and Senate can agree on.

He answered questions from students about changing how the FAA deals with mental wellness, incorporating new technologies into the National Airspace System and other topics.

Students also heard from Transportation & Infrastructure Committee staffers Adam Weiss and Leslie Parker, as well as Hannah Berner with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO); Katie Gallagher with Rep. Ron Estes (R-4-KS), Ashleigh Weismiller with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-1-KS), James Buckley with Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Maiale with Rep. Andy Ogles (R-5-TN), Seamus McKeon with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-19-CA) and Jonathon Freye with Supernal.

Middle Tennessee State University students Presley Kennemore and Gavin Ross both said they were excited to have the opportunity to come to Washington, DC, and talk about the issues most important to them.

“Aviation is an industry that needs to expand and grow more, especially in Tennessee,” said Ross, noting that the state is lacking in options for pilot education and training, with only one school for pilots in his state.

Both students said they were interested in business aviation and agreed that an industry-wide focus on sustainability leadership – as highlighted through advocacy initiatives including the CLIMBING. FAST. campaign – is a top priority. “We grew up hearing about global warming,” said Kennemore. “We grew up with this mindset of needing to improve sustainability.”

Heather Stogsdill, who will graduate from the University of Central Missouri in May, said sustainability is something she’s learned about in her classes and wants to be a part of an industry that is cutting emissions and building a greener future. “I really care about the environment,” she said. “Cutting down on emissions will have a good impact on the aviation industry and I can help with that.”

Learn more about Alpha Eta Rho.