The power shift in Washington could mean good news for pilots.
“This shift in power in the House changes the picture for us on the user fee fight,” said Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, “but it doesn’t mean we’ve won the battle. However, now we can be assured of a fair hearing from people who understand aviation and aren’t beholden to the White House.”
Aviation user fees are “very much” an idea pushed down from the Bush administration, AOPA officials say.
The power shift in the House will most likely put Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) in charge of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Any law to change the way the FAA is funded will have to originate in that committee. As chairman, Oberstar would control what legislation gets passed to the full House to vote on.
Oberstar, a longtime friend to general aviation, has historically opposed corporatizing or privatizing air traffic control, and is skeptical of any changes to the current FAA funding system, according to AOPA officials.
There also will be a change in the leadership of the aviation subcommittee. The two most likely contenders for that job are Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.). Both are knowledgeable about general aviation, and both have demonstrated a willingness to listen and understand the ramifications of user fees on general aviation.
On the other hand, the power shift also brings to the forefront some lawmakers who have concerns about general aviation security. “We’ll have more work to do to educate people about the great strides we’ve made in improving security, and to the minimal threat that GA represents,” Boyer said.
In the Senate, it looks like GA has lost a long-time advocate with the apparent defeat of Republican Conrad Burns. Burns had not conceded defeat as of press time, but an overnight count of votes had pegged his opponent, Democrat Joe Tester, as the winner of the seat. Burns was chairman of the aviation subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, so a new person will be appointed to that important position.