WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pilots — as well as everyone else in the United States — can expect political turbulence over the next months and longer. In fact, what this lame-duck Congress can and will do in the weeks before the inauguration may give hints as to what the next four years will bring to general aviation.
One thing we already know: General aviation will have to look out for the three Rs. No, it’s not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic — it’s rules, restrictions, and rates.
In the rules category, some of the concerns are equipment requirements to operate in certain airspace, more regulations relating to safety, and experience levels.
Restrictions continue as something to watch as they have since Orville said to Wilbur “Let’s build another one.” Restrictions to limit traffic around major metropolitan airports will make more congested times a bigger challenge for GA.
Rates is the place where most open battles will take place. The ugly head of user fees is sure to be raised as Congress and the President attempt to cut the horrendous debt. Fees are not taxes and therefore may be charged by the Department of Transportation and not need Congressional approval.
On top of user fees, costs of new equipment demanded by regulations, possible increased certification costs, and expenses of meeting experience levels are some of the areas to watch out for in the belt-tightening era.
The possibility of severe inflation also looms as a problem in the rates. Unless the three arms of the federal government can get together and really cut the deficit, the dollar is going to be asked to do more, meaning it is worth less. That raises costs on everything from certification and construction of aircraft, to insurance, equipment and service.
After the election, basically the same cast of characters is in Washington. The associations working for general aviation will have their plates full trying to keep the United States the country it is for general aviation.
As would be expected, those working in Washington for general aviation commented on the election with sweetness and light because they must work with those in power.
Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said that group congratulated the winning candidates and looked forward to working with them. He added to those who will serve in public office: “We want you to know that our deep commitment in protecting our freedom to fly has never been stronger. We look forward, at the earliest opportunity, to work with you to build and strengthen the general aviation community at the state and federal levels. Your constituents and our members should expect nothing less.”
The National Business Aviation Association also made friendly overtures to the winners with an equal determination to strive for the climate in which business aviation can continue to serve communities, the economy, and its members. Ed Bolen, NBAA president, reminded those in office that: “Business aviation is an essential American industry that generates jobs, fosters economic development, contributes to our balance of trade, helps companies be productive and efficient, and assists our nation’s humanitarian efforts.”
Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Control Association, said the next four years will present some challenges, but added, “I have never been so hopeful about our future.” He noted the recent collaborations between the FAA and NATCA has been the result of the president restoring collective bargaining rights for controllers and strong leadership to restore and expand labor-management partnerships in the federal government.
What this lame-duck Congress can and will do in the weeks before the inauguration will give a hint as to what kind of a four-year period general aviation will have.
Charles Spence is General Aviation News’ Washington, D.C., correspondent.