Airlines’ Attack on GA nothing new

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nothing new happens in Washington — only the cast of characters changes.

About 40 years ago, increasing sales of single and light twin airplanes and the growing use of general aviation for business travel brought frantic efforts by the airlines to control this supposed threat. Spearheaded by American Airlines, strong efforts were made to get more restraints placed on non-airline flights.

George Spater, then president of American Airlines, made fiery speeches, author Donald Bain, a former American Airlines publicity employee, wrote a book “”The Case Against Private Aviation,”” lobbying efforts increased with the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress. Washington general aviation groups fought back, individually if not as a group; some stronger than others.

The airline industry achieved some success — terminal control areas were established — but much of the effort was fended off and the issue remained.

Now, the growth of business flying and the coming introduction of very light jets has the airline industry running around like Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling or, in this case, the sky is full.

Instead of one airline, the effort this time is being led by the industry’s trade group, the Air Transport Association (ATA) and its president and CEO, James May. The “”Smart Skies”” position of ATA, discussed in the last issue of GAN, is an example. So is the push for user fees. As Senior Editor Tom Norton points out, ATA’s Basil Barimo has coined the term “”commercial air space”” as though airlines own certain parts of the sky and general aviation should stay out of it.

General aviation groups are again sensing the threat and starting to do more about it. Quiet meetings are held to try to get everybody on the same page.

Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) is sponsoring its first ever general aviation issues conference in Denver in mid-September. Co-sponsors are the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transport Association (NATA) and General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). It will bring together prominent people from government and industry. Opening session of the two-day meeting will feature representatives of these associations and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) discussing “”The Washington Perspective”” in a roundtable, followed by discussion of new general aviation jets.


Congress has been looking into the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) issue with a hearing by the House Aviation Subcommittee. FAA has issued more than 50 Certificates of Authorization (COA) to government agencies to operate these vehicles. UAS vehicles can range from 12-ounce hand-launched models to ones the size of a 747. They have been operating in Alaska, along the Mexican border, and the Coast Guard has been flying them to check on ships. Assimilating these into the airspace is a challenge, Nicholas Sabatini, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, told the panel. Many are too small for any kind of alerting device. There is no technology yet available for detecting and warning devices to let manned aircraft know of their presence. All altitudes are affected. One consideration is to have climb and descent corridors to get the vehicles into higher altitudes. These would be similar to what general aviation interests proposed years ago as alternatives to establishment of terminal control areas. Now manned aircraft are kept out of the UAS’s path by allowing operations at specified times, alerting of air traffic control and posting of NOTAMS for general aviation.

The FAA’s proposal to require special training for anyone flying within 100 miles of the Washington, D.C., ADIZ is getting poor marks from persons responding to the notice of proposed rule making. By late July, only one of the comments submitted did not ridicule the proposal, and that writer said he had “”no objections to training”” but questioned whether the rule was necessary. Other opposition comments include such statements as: “”more unneeded unnecessary bureaucracy,”” and “”will not work,”” to a suggestion that questions about the ADIZ be included in the biennial flight review.

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

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