OSHKOSH — On Wednesday morning at AirVenture, the heads of general aviation’s top alphabet groups met to discuss how they are “stronger together.”
Speaking to a crowd at the EAA Welcome Center during AirVenture, EAA President Rod Hightower said, “this group of people does a tremendous amount of work to protect our freedom to fly.”
Joining Hightower on the stage was Ed Bolen of the National Business Aviation Association, Craig Fuller of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Pete Bunce of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Matt Zuccaro of the Helicopter Association International, and Henry Ogrodzinski of the National Association of State Aviation Officials. Each took a few minutes to talk about the top issues affecting their members, covering everything from TFRs during the presidential campaign to how to increase the pilot population.
A similar forum was held last year and NBAA’s Bolen noted that the issues that were top of the list last year — the need for FAA reauthorization and the threat of user fees — were addressed thanks to the grass roots advocacy of the groups and their members.
“But there is more work ahead of us,” he said. “I’d like to be able to say that we’ve won the user fee fight, but I can’t. In Washington, it’s impossible to kill a bad idea.”
The budget uncertainties facing the federal government — specifically sequestration or the “fiscal flip” that will cause draconian cuts to the military budget accompanied by the largest tax increase in history — could result another fight against user fees.
“Compromises will need to be made and that may bring us back to user fees,” he said.
Another issue facing general aviation is the cost of flying — not just in what we are paying at the pump or to modify our airplanes, but in costs to the industry to certify new aircraft and equipment, noted GAMA’s Bunce.
“The average age of the typical general aviation aircraft is 42 years old,” he noted.
But certifying new aircraft and equipment is prohibitively expensive because of the cost — in both time and money — required by the FAA process, he noted. As an example, he said an Angle of Attack indicator used in an experimental aircraft costs about $800. Want to put it in a certified aircraft? Then the price increases to $8,000 — a factor of 10 thanks to the cost of the certification process.
“We certifiy to the highest level, so the simplest aircraft certification has to be the same as certifying a business jet flying at 41,000 feet. We all know this is ridiculous, but worse, it stifles innovation.”
Look for more of the top issues facing general aviation in upcoming posts.