When President Obama signed the extension of the FAA’s reauthorization July 15, GA’s focus was on the long-awaited medical reform. But what else was in the bill that affects GA?The bill, which extends the FAA’s reauthorization through Sept. 30, 2017, at current funding levels, had several provisions dealing with Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) — also known as drones or remotely piloted aircraft, including:
- Streamlining the process for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires;
- Prohibiting unmanned aircraft users from interfering with emergency response activities; and
- Creating new processes to detect, identify, and mitigate unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft around airports.
It also includes a provision that requires the marking of some towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft.
Also of import to GA is that the bill “streamlines and improves the air traffic controller hiring process and ensures the FAA can better address chronic controller shortages with experienced candidates.
It also puts forth several items dealing with airline pilots, including increased mental health screening and ensuring pilots are trained on manual flying skills.
But the bill didn’t include other items that are especially important to general aviation, including the Part 23 rewrite, designed to make it easier to certify new aircraft and new aircraft parts, and a provision that would require the FAA to cover the ATC costs of fly-ins and airshows, such as AirVenture and SUN ’n FUN.
“The only thing that got attached to the extension was the medical reform elements,” explained Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety for the Experimental Aircraft Association. “All the other things we’ve been pursuing got shredded. We’re not going to see those until the next time reauthorization is keyed up.”
So that means fall of next year “or even as late as 2019 if they’re not able to actually pass a reauthorization bill,” he said.
Until then, GA advocates and enthusiasts need to continue to lobby for the provisions that are important to them.
First step is to stay educated, Elliott advises.
“Watch what’s happening on a particular issue,” he said. “For example, Part 23 Reform. The FAA administrator has committed to completing the rulemaking and having a final rule in the next year.”
Once the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is released, it’s important for GA to comment on it — and not just Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and EAA officials, but pilots and others involved in general aviation.
Also important is reaching out to your elected representative to let him or her know that you support — or oppose — a rule.
Just doing that is a “big deal,” according to Elliott.
“We’ve got several hundred thousands of GA pilots, and we still only see 20,000 or 30,000 comments to a docket at the most,” he said.
He acknowledges that that is still a big number.
“But that’s such a small percentage of the general aviation pilot population,” he said. “It’d be great if everybody jumped on that bandwagon to make sure that GA had the outcomes that we want it to have.”