It’s not what you know, but who you know

Relationships can

make a difference

on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For persons representing general aviation before members of Congress, it is pleasant when the chair of the committee, or a few members of it, are knowledgeable about aviation. It is even more enjoyable when the person testifying is known personally by members of the committee. Knowledge and friendship do not necessarily bring agreement, but they do get testimony to the point by centering the discussion on appropriate questioning.

Such was the case when James Coyne recently appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), was testifying about rules affecting fuel issues at airports.

When introducing the panel on which Coyne was appearing, Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) commented that he was welcoming to the hearing “”a man with whom I served when we were both members of the House of Representatives.”” “”We park our airplanes side-by-side each year when we attend the EAA gathering at Oshkosh,”” he added.

That hearing was about an attempt to clear up confusion that has existed for years about fuel trucks and fuel storage at airports. For instance, are fuel trucks also “”portable storage units?”” If so, this would make them subject to being parked in a costly containment area to prevent any spillage from contaminating the environment. Many airports have been notified trucks are “”portable storage”” units and subject to the extensive storage requirements.

A new notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempts to clarify this and the Senate committee is taking a look at the subject. Coyne expressed agreement with the NPRM that takes away the requirement that airports build expensive parking areas, but urged the committee to direct the EPA to further clarify the issue and tighten the definition to reduce the amount of discretion local inspectors may have.

Over on the House side, Rep. Ric Keller (R.Fla.) introduced H.R. 1400, a bill to provide penalties for aiming laser pointers at an aircraft. Over the past year at least 100 incidents of laser pointings at aircraft have occurred, most being at general aviation. The bill soon got additional sponsors: Mark Green (R-Wis.), Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.). The House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate. Violators would be subject to fines of $250,000, imprisonment of five years, or both.

The recent Southwest Airlines accident at Chicago’s Midway Airport has brought attention to Chicago’s airport problems. Since the year 2000, the city has resisted federal urgings to add extension areas to the runways at Midway. The FAA requires new runways to have a 1,000-foot safety area beyond the runway. The runway on which the Southwest flight was landing has only 82 feet.

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), representing a district of South Chicago, has been trying to get a new airport to serve the Chicago and northern Indiana region. It would be called the Lincoln National Airport and, Jackson says, would add aviation capacity and create “”an economic engine”” for the area.

Although the Abraham Lincoln Airport Commission is recognized by the state and 34 suburban communities, Jackson’s efforts have been fought by many, including Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), who recently introduced an amendment to a defense bill that Jackson says would kill any attempt to proceed with the new airport. And there is the continuing disgust at the way the officials of Chicago closed Meigs Field.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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