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.

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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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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NTSB wants your thoughts

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public comments regarding its proposed changes to rules governing investigation procedures.

The agency proposes to organize its procedures into mode-specific subparts to make the rules easier to access and consult. It also wants to update some terms and procedures, including using the term “event” to describe mishaps, rather than incident or accident.

More information may be found here.

NTSB to study drug trends in aviation accidents

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board will consider a study on drug use trends in aviation Sept. 9. It will examine trends in over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drug use documented from toxicology reports of pilots that died in aircraft crashes for the 22 years between 1990 and 2012.

The meeting on the drug trends will follow a meeting to determine the probable cause of a UPS Airlines accident that killed both the pilot and co-pilot in August 2013 as the flight was making an approach into the international airport at Birmingham, Alabama.

FAA interpretation of cost-sharing flights raises cautionary flags

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent ruling by the FAA regarding share-the-expense rides raises a cautionary flag for private pilots to be sure they are in compliance with not-for-hire regulations. The FAA issued a legal interpretation after several groups launched programs that brought together people wanting to travel to a particular place and pilots intending to go to the same location.

In brief, the FAA’s interpretation of regulations permits pilots to accept payment for a share of expenses so long as both the pilot and parties involved as passengers are traveling to a common destination and the pilot does not pay less than the pro rata share of expenses involving only fuel, oil, airport expenses, or rental fees. If a pilot accepts more than a pro rata share of expenses, he or she is in violation of FAA regulations.

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