Removing the barriers to innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill introduced in Congress May 6 requiring the FAA to set a date for implementing changes in Part 23 is only a part of major changes for certification of aircraft and aircraft products.

For the past 18 months, 180 people have been working on an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to arrive at recommendations with the goal, as stated by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, of “doubling safety and cutting certification costs in half.”

[Read more…]

Challenges ahead for NextGen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA is entering its midterm implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and, while advances have been made, there remain many issues and challenges.

That is pointed out in a new report put together by the Government Accountability Office at the request of leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. [Read more…]

The impact of controller furloughs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a growing concern here that furloughing of air traffic controllers by the FAA is a political move by the Obama administration to put the spotlight on sequestration and get Congress to take action to eliminate it. Members of Congress and most aviation groups, however, don’t seem to be buying that.

Most of the impact is being felt by the airlines, which is gaining heavy media coverage.

Members of Congress are ratcheting up their displeasure. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said: “If for some reason the president or the FAA doesn’t believe they have the flexibility to address this issue, they should ask Congress for the flexibility they need.”

Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure issued a statement charging the FAA with choosing a “very public and painful way to implement sequestration.” The statement declared the FAA has stated it has flexibility to reduce costs in other ways.

In the Senate, John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va), chairman of the powerful committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD), said they have received only broad responses to past inquiries about implementation plans for sequester.

In a letter sent to both FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the elected officials noted that  at a recent hearing on the subject, Huerta failed to provide detailed information about the projected effects of furloughing to the traveling public.

Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Committee, said the FAA’s management of sequestration is quickly going from bad to worse. He said the FAA has the flexibility to reduce costs elsewhere, such as contracts, travel, supplies, and consultants, or to apply furloughs in a manner that better protects the most critical air traffic control facilities.

He added that perhaps what is the most troubling is that the FAA has known about sequestration for almost two years and gave Congress and the airline industry less than a week’s notice about its implementation plans.

The FAA is implementing furloughs at the same rate at small airports as at major centers. For example, the House Committee notes that Waterloo Regional Airport in Iowa, which has 79 operations a day, is being treated the same as Chicago Air Route Traffic Center, which has about 8,200 operations per day.

Officials at the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) report little reaction from its members, but members of the National Business Aviation Association are being affected much like the airlines.

AOPA encourages pilots to share their experiences — delays or no delays on their flight, along with the type and location of the flight — with the association to help form a better picture of the impact on GA. Pilots can send a short note via email to AOPA’s Pilot Information Center or respond via Facebook and Twitter (@AOPA) using the hashtag #ATCDelays.

Much of the NBAA membership operate jet aircraft and tend to fly mostly instrument flight rules. They monitor air traffic similar to the airlines. NBAA reports delays have been running as much as two hours in the New York-Washington area and more than an hour in other locations.

Both GA associations are looking ahead to June 15, the date FAA has said it will close 149 contract airport towers. The combination of furloughs and closures could have an adverse effect on all general aviation.

Allies in the fight for GA


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although many in Washington have the mistaken idea that everything of importance takes place here, that is far from the case. More and more in recent years, general aviation interests are recognizing that although much affecting flight is based on actions — or lack of actions — by Congress and the FAA, public opinion and local issues are just as important.

Six years ago GA groups recognized the importance of this and established the Alliance for Aviation Across America.

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Senate committee questions tower closings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 30 senators have sponsored a bill to prevent the FAA from closing any air traffic control tower in fiscal years 2013 or 2014, while the chairman of the Senate committee concerned with aviation warns all the progress made by the FAA is at risk because of sequestration.

[Read more…]

Getting GA’s message to lawmakers


WASHINGTON, D.C. — When lobbyists want Congressional help on issues, they usually seek out members with interests in that issue in a caucus. The informal, bipartisan groups are found in both the House and Senate. But until recently, there were no general aviation caucuses. Now there are active groups in both Houses.

At present, the general aviation caucus in the House has 170 members — making it one of the largest caucuses — while the Senate caucus has 35 members. In the four years since the Congressional general aviation caucuses were formed, they have become an effective way to gain recognition and acceptance for general aviation.

An example of how this works was the recent visit to Capitol Hill by actor and pilot Harrison Ford (pictured above) visited the House caucus.

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Why get upset about towers closing?

Starting April 7, the FAA will close 149 contract air traffic control towers to help reduce expenditures as required by sequestration. General aviation uses thousands of airports that do not have towers, so why are GA advocates getting upset over the closing of these towers?

That’s a question many pilots are asking. [Read more…]