Busy time ahead for GA’s alphabet groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the election year begins, Congress and the President are ratcheting up actions to gain an upper hand, which is putting issues affecting general aviation in both critical positions and on the back burner.

This means a busy year for GA’s alphabet organizations, with both opportunities and potential problems.

Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), told members of his organization, “2014 will bring with it a significant need for advocacy and vigilance on behalf of the industry’s interests.”

The fiscal situation affects many issues. Sequester means mandatory cuts in spending. Democrats in both the House and Senate want to keep up spending while the Republicans want to offset spending increases with cuts. Seeking sources of revenue keeps the President’s proposal of a $100 per flight user fee for some flights high on the list to watch. Seeing this as a problem to again defeat, Aircraft Owners and Pilots (AOPA) calls user fees “a perennial problem.” AOPA also sees the question of the third-class medical certificate as another important government movement on which to keep pressure.

A bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives that would require the FAA to replacing the third-class medical with a policy that allows pilots to fly day VFR below 14,000 feet AGL with a valid driver’s license. Action on the bill may take a back seat amid the many skirmishes in the Congress. Even if it gets action in the House, it still must go through the Senate.

Officials at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) have these concerns to work on, as well as special government dealings. The massive fly-in held in Oshkosh in the summer of 2013 saw the FAA insisting on payment for the air traffic controllers working approach and control at the airport. EAA is already starting to gear up for another fight in 2014.

Sleep apnea testing and treatment for pilots with a body mass index of 40 or higher was delayed in December, but the FAA has indicated the issue is “a policy enhancement” that would be brought up early in 2014. FAA officials did note they would work with advocacy groups on the proposal that has many pilots up in arms.

Efforts by the city of Santa Monica, Calif., to close busy Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) and replace it with a city park has repercussions throughout the United States. The FAA says providing funds to the city for the airport meant keeping the facility open as an airport for perpetuity. Not so, claims the city. The outcome of the city’s lawsuit might determine the future of airports of all levels.

These are just a few of the key interests to be faced this year. While there are laws and regulations of interest to be faced and met, there also are some encouraging signs. More than half the representatives in the House of Representatives now belong to the General Aviation Caucus, making it that body’s largest caucus. The Senate also has a growing group. Some members of the caucuses are pilots and there are others who understand GA, what it does and its effect on travel and economics. These members actively support issues and work closely with advocacy groups. Some members of the caucuses are less active and belong only because they see membership as a political move in gaining support.

Although some members are not too active, the meetings also attract their staff members. Staffers do much in researching and drafting of bills. The more these people know about GA, the better.

This past Congress produced fewer bills than in many recent past sessions. This might be considered a blessing. But it demonstrate the divided views of members of Congress and the challenges faced almost daily by GA’s alphabet groups.


  1. melvin freedman says

    Just briefly read this proposal, but honestly it does nothing but keep the faa and the 3rd class med alive. It will only leave future pilots in to many what ifs. You can be sure that the 141 operations will be up in arms. Example, the inst rating is really what every pilot should study. Here this bill does not encourage that(safety}

  2. Melvin Freedman says

    Well, as I believe, that the faa is no doubt in my thoughts, the most powerful agency in the federal bureaucracy, no doubt the aviation community has a tough road to haul. As for the elimination of the 3rd class med, which is there holygrail, the chances are slim to none. It took congress to do this revitilization thing. As a person of thought, airworsthness and oversite of the industry is #1, but this agency does need an overhaul.

  3. eugene bielecki says

    Keep after congress to throw out the 3rd class medical///AOPA NO> 00081275
    Do not let them put it on the back burner….. keep after the FAA to drop it…..

  4. Tom Slater says

    The grant assurances that FAA mandates each airport sponsor sign as part of receiving federal funding assistance for airport improvements must remain a mainstay of the “aid to airports” program. Without such assurances — the FAA will not be willing to invest in “smaller” general aviation airports fearing loss of taxpayer investment. Worse, such a breach in the FAA’s assurances will pave the way for these airport hating municipalities next assurance breaking initiative — funneling airport generated revenue away from the airport to pay for their library or bike path. This will greatly accelerate the continued decline of the number of GA airports in this once great country; the birthplace of aviation.

  5. Kent Misegades says

    The only thing that matters for the largest part of GA, recreational flying, is lowering the cost of fuel. Only mogas can do this. If we do not see significant reductions soon, it’s all over.

    • says

      Kent; Although I totally agree with the “push” by you and other advocates that Mogas will reduce operating cost to owners and “retail” flight school/FBO rental rates. However, the question I have is this; will this “saving” increase demand for recreational (social -non-utility) flying to the POTENTIAL non-flying public or is this just a means to make flying a LESS costly benefit to those constantly complaining that it’s to “expensive”?
      Again – a “cost/benefit” and VALUE issue here?

  6. Tom says

    Get the lead and the ethanol out,
    Throw the 3rd class medical away,
    The ADS-B rule makes me pout,
    And keep FAA’s sleep apnea at bay.

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