FAA reauthorization struggles begin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — FAA reauthorization is up for renewal next September and an indication of upcoming struggles over it was highlighted in a House of Representatives committee hearing in late November.

A major disagreement will be over air traffic control (ATC). The airline industry is urging swift action to implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a satellite-based system to replace the ground stations that requires aircraft owners to equip with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment. Many in general aviation consider the cost too high for the ADS-B equipment and are concerned about its reliability.

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GA advocates return to Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The mid-term election was a surprise to many people. Some it pleased. To others it caused discomfort. But to officials of general aviation advocacy groups who deal regularly with Congress, election results are neutral.

The associations deal with both political parties over the years and there is no desire to make a comment that could be filed away to remind a person or party that a particular association was not nice in what was said at any time.

Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), said “we know the value of the industry will continue to be recognized by members of both parties, as demonstrated by the large, bipartisan nature of the House and Senate GA Caucuses.”

He added the caucuses are about evenly divided along party lines. Lawmakers come from urban and rural districts, coastal areas and the middle of the country. In all these places business aviation is essential in creating jobs, helping companies of all sizes succeed, and providing an economic lifeline, he noted.

Officials at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said they are encouraged as many key general aviation supporters kept their positions. Two of the incoming Republicans are also AOPA members — Barry Loudermilk of Georgia and former Governor Mike Rounds, elected to fill one of South Dakota’s Senate seats.

There will need to be some rebuilding in the House and Senate Caucuses. According to AOPA, the Senate Caucus will lose at least seven members; the House will need to seek new leadership after Rep. John Barrow (R-Ga.) was defeated.

Tom Cotton, a representative from Arkansas who co-sponsored the House’s General Aviation Protection Act, will be moving from the House to the Senate.

Even with all the changes, the House GA Caucus is still one of the largest in the Congress.

Santa Monica airport problems continue

Although not a Washington subject, the future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) had a disappointing election result for GA advocates. Currently this important airport in the Los Angeles area is teetering on the edge. Developers want to build industrial sites and offices on the airport. Over recent years there have been exorbitant landing and rental fees and other attempts to strangle the airport.

A measure passed by the voters leaves the City Council in charge of the airport. AOPA worked over the years to keep the airport operating. The association supported an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would have required voter approval before the city could make any changes. This measure failed.

Airport advocates know the importance of an airport in the Los Angeles area to relieve Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and to provide the economic connection with the world that an airport brings.

Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, said that association will continue to work to keep the airport open.

Having flown into SMO on a few occasions on business, I recognize the value of the airport as a business asset.

USA Today fires latest salvo in anti-GA campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. — USA TODAY, one of the Gannett publications, recently carried another article about general aviation safety, which brought quick rebuttals from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

USA TODAY carried a three-part series this past June titled “Unfit for Flight.” The latest single article, published Oct. 27, was: “Post-Crash Fires in Small Planes Cost 600 lives.” The article did not include in the heading that this number was over the past 25 years and safety has been continually improving.

Several attempts were made to contact Gannett offices to interview someone about the articles. These have been rebuffed.

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No longer business as usual for ATC

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Business as usual in air traffic management won’t work, which is why the FAA Administrator is calling on the aviation industry to help in adapting and assuring the financing of new approaches. That was the message FAA Administrator Michael Huerta brought in a recent speech to the Aero Club of Washington.

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GA garnering more attention from Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — General aviation now seems to be getting more attention in Congress and from the FAA. This observation comes from the appearance of a Congressman and a deputy administrator of the FAA at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Homecoming Fly-In earlier this month.

Michael Whitaker, FAA deputy administrator with the primary responsibility of developing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), told a crowd of several hundred that he is getting his pilot’s license “to better understand my job and general aviation issues.”

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Thousands attend AOPA 75th anniversary fly-in

FREDERICK, Md. — Low clouds, gusty winds, and early threats of showers did not keep the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association from having a successful 75th anniversary celebration at its headquarters here Saturday, Oct. 4.

More than 3,000 people attended the homecoming fly-in. According to association officials, 345 aircraft arrived and more than 1,400 cars filled the parking area where drivers and passengers had to slush through wet, grassy areas to reach the paved walkways.

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Possible terrorist threats keep GA vigilant

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When conditions in the Middle East erupted and President Obama unleashed air power on the Islamic State, officials at many general aviation organizations here became jittery over ISIL threats to retaliate on American soil.

If there is retaliation, would aircraft be used? Would the escalation of tensions raise the level of concern to a point that would mean an increase in security at airports? Would it mean limitations on flying?

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Six movie companies given OK to fly drones

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The drones are coming.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta revealed at a news conference Sept. 25 that six aerial and video companies have been granted permission to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States, with a seventh company in line for approval.

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Third-class medical reform caught in government maze

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It started two-and-a-half years ago and there is still no clear end in sight. It’s another example of apparent government slow — or no — action.

In March 2012, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) petitioned the FAA to reduce the requirements for a third-class medical certificate and permit certain types of flying with a valid automobile drivers’ license, much like the Sport Pilot license.

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