More training and user fees take center stage as FAA administrator faces Oshkosh crowds

How would you like someone from the FAA telling you that you had to get more training because of a violation committed by another pilot? If you are based within 100 nautical miles of the ADIZ in Washington, D.C., that’s exactly the situation you face. That information came from FAA Administrator Marion Blakey during the Meet the Administrator forum at this year’s EAA AirVenture.

The extra training is in response to several instances of VFR pilots illegally entering the restricted airspace and triggering hasty evacuations of government buildings.

A recent instance was a highly publicized case involving a Cessna 150. Several attempts were made to get the errant airplane out of the restricted area, including the dropping of flares by a pair of F-16s. Eventually radio contact was established and the C-150 was ordered to land at the airport in Frederick, Md. Once on the ground, the pilots were arrested.

According to Blakey, the training would likely be done through an online program or airport seminar. In addition, penalties for violation of the restricted airspace will be increased.

“I’m sorry that it has come to this,” Blakey said. “All of the violations have been blunders. We will try to make it as painless as possible.”

The announcement sent a murmur of disapproval through the audience. One pilot remarked that for the past four years there have been significant efforts by aviation advocacy groups to educate pilots about restricted airspace and military interception procedures, yet mistakes still happen and there are already consequences.

Blakey also asked those in attendance to take a more active role in the security of their airports by being the eyes and ears of law enforcement. The increased security was also felt at the forum where an explosive-sniffing dog checked the stage before Blakey’s arrival and security guards were placed around the perimeter of the building.

Another topic that set a buzz through the audience was the issue of the driver’s license medical for Sport Pilot. One man noted that the new medical is so loaded with caveats that it doesn’t do anything for pilots who want to fly but can’t pass a Third Class medical exam. Blakey replied that there probably would not be any changes to the Sport Pilot medical.

Although she did not come right out and say user fees were on the way for general aviation, Blakey did caution the audience that the aviation trust find is running “dangerously low” and that a stable funding system needs to be developed. On the upside, she noted that if user fees are implemented, the people who will be paying the fees will have a say in how the system operates.

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