January 1, 1996
AOPA Communications Division
AOPA Legislative Action is cheering President Clinton for signing the fiscal 1996 Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill on November 15, as he had pledged to do.
"This bill takes giant strides towards fixing the long-term problems within the Federal Aviation Administration," said Phil Boyer, speaking for AOPALA, which was formed to foster and promote general aviation in the United States for the benefit of all citizens. "The reforms contained within the appropriations bill will finally give the FAA the tools it needs to make rapid progress toward modernizing our aging air traffic control system."
House and Senate conferees adopted language modeled on that of Representative Jim Lightfoot (R-IA) on FAA procurement and personnel reform contained in the 1996 DOT appropriations bill. Those reforms endorse exempting the FAA from federal regulations that impede purchase of necessary "off-the-shelf" equipment. The personnel reforms would also permit the FAA to reward performance and move personnel to where they are needed.
The conferees rejected a Senate proposal establishing some $10 million in new user fees. They said the administration had not demonstrated an unequivocal need, justification, or explanation for additional taxes on the aviation industry.
"The conferees believe there will be substantial savings achieved through the FAA reform provisions enacted in this bill," they wrote in the conference report. "Such cost savings, combined with further review of the agency's cost structure, could obviate or minimize the need for additional fees."
"We're pleased that the appropriations bill adopted some of AOPA Legislative Action's positions," said Boyer. "A reformed FAA can efficiently manage and improve our air transportation infrastructure without additional user taxes."
The fiscal 1996 DOT appropriations bill gives the FAA an $8.2 billion budget, $1.3 billion more than the administration requested. FAA operations will be funded at $4.65 billion. Congress gave the Secretary of Transportation authority to transfer up to $60 million from Coast Guard operating expenses to increase funding for safety-related air traffic control operations and maintenance.
Funding for the Airport Improvement Program will remain level at $1.45 billion, allowing Congress to continue paying the five percent bonus to air traffic controllers. Conferees thought it necessary to delay some airport construction projects to fund the controller incentive program, important to maintaining controller morale.
"Even though we've made significant progress toward fixing the FAA, we still need to go further," said Boyer. "AOPA Legislative Action urges Congress to continue pressing forward with the Duncan-Lightfoot bill."
...that the FAA has extended by 60 days the comment period for the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding Federal Aviation Regulations parts 61 and 141? The new comment deadline is February 12. By late November, the FAA had received more than 1,500 comments on the proposed rule changes. AOPA encourages members to take advantage of this extension and file comments on the proposal.
The Duncan-Lightfoot bill to reform the FAA easily cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on November 1. The House will consider the bill to make the FAA an independent agency.
"The transportation committee's ringing endorsement of this bill demonstrates the urgency of FAA reform and proves that the Duncan-Lightfoot plan is the way to do it," said Phil Boyer, speaking for AOPA Legislative Action. "We're excited that this critical piece of legislation is now moving to the floor of the House."
The Duncan-Lightfoot bill would make the FAA independent of the Department of Transportation and give the FAA relief from cumbersome government procurement and personnel procedures. A five-member independent Federal Aviation Board would set policy and ratify key decisions. Day- to-day FAA management would be in the hands of a chief operating officer, who would take the place of the current FAA administrator.
The bill also would take the Airport and Airway Trust Fund "off-budget," making it easier to spend the $5 billion trust fund surplus for aviation infrastructure improvements.
"AOPA Legislative Action wants to thank Representative John Duncan (R-TN) for his strong leadership in moving this bill forward," said Boyer. Duncan is chairman of the aviation subcommittee.
AOPALA also praised Representative Jim Lightfoot (R- IA), who first introduced legislation that became the model for FAA reform. His original bill drew heavily from a five-point FAA reform plan that AOPALA presented to Congress in February.
"General aviation owes thanks to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) for his financial reforms in the Duncan-Lightfoot Bill that would allow the FAA to use the $5 billion surplus in the aviation trust fund," said Boyer.
"Representative James Oberstar's (D-MN) long opposition to ATC corporatization or privatization has helped to keep such misguided ideas from advancing in the House," said Boyer. "Representative Oberstar, along with Representative William Clinger (R-PA), has fought for many years to reform and improve the FAA."
AOPALA reiterated its opposition to Senate FAA reform bills that would impose new, unnecessary aviation user taxes.
AOPA President Phil Boyer told an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in Las Vegas on November 7 that recent FAA facility outages reflect long-delayed upgrades of equipment, not a lack of FAA funding.
"Although many outages were just power failures, these incidents reflect the fact that government procurement practices must be reformed to allow the FAA to acquire new equipment expeditiously," said Boyer. "This has everything to do with making the FAA an independent federal agency free of the politics and interference of the Department of Transportation bureaucracy. It has nothing to do with raising taxes."
AOPA opposes as unnecessary the legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate by John McCain (R-AZ) calling for new types of fees for FAA safety and regulatory services. "First of all, no one today can prove the contention that the FAA needs $12 billion in additional funds to do its job through the year 2002," said Boyer. "Second, such a judgment would have to accept that government's 'business as usual' operations will prevail, just plodding along on more and more money. That's over."
The Clinton administration has embraced the McCain proposal after withdrawing from its multi-year effort to spin off FAA air traffic control into a private or quasi-governmental corporation.
"FAA modernization efforts since 1981 have spent billions and billions of dollars on new facilities and equipment programs — all funded by fees charged the users of the air traffic control system. After 15 years, we should have more to show for it," said Boyer. "We don't need a 'solution' that heaps more money on the problem — not when the user-financed trust fund has run a surplus of billions almost from the day it was created in 1970."
AOPA Expo '96, scheduled for October 17 through 19 in San Jose, California, will provide leverage in AOPA's ongoing negotiations with local officials over the fate of San Jose's Reid- Hillview Airport.
"Selection criteria for AOPA Expo sites include both good hotel/convention facilities and a nearby user-friendly airport for general aviation," AOPA President Phil Boyer told an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in San Jose on November 9. Boyer addressed the issue after a local pilot newsletter criticized AOPA's choice of San Jose, where local officials are attempting to close the important Reid-Hillview reliever airport.
Boyer noted that almost every major city in the United States has an airport under some kind of community pressure, and AOPA Expo site selection is a tool to fight those airport pressures, not reward them. "The Expo event provides an object lesson for local leaders through the significant economic leverage of 10,000 general aviation visitors ready to spend millions of dollars over just three days," said Boyer.
AOPA staff recently underscored concerns about local airport policy with San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau official Steve Hammond, who attended AOPA's 1995 convention and trade show in Atlantic City.
"When we began negotiations about San Jose in 1994, we received certain assurances concerning the future of Reid- Hillview Airport," Boyer related. "Our decision is based on those assurances."
Boyer cited the example of Bader Field near downtown Atlantic City, site of AOPA's record-breaking 1995 convention. The Atlantic City mayor's long anti-airport campaign there had resulted in removal of all airport services and an airport that was in total disrepair. But as AOPA's plans for an Atlantic City convention developed, the state of New Jersey stepped in with more than $300,000 in improvements to restore the airport. Work concluded just days before visitors arrived for Expo '95, and Bader Field runways and taxiways today are in excellent shape.
Pilots at the AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in San Jose on November 9 signed a petition seeking San Jose city council support for continued operation of Reid-Hillview Airport. The petition also asks that San Jose officials enter into an agreement with Santa Clara County to operate Reid-Hillview as a reliever airport for San Jose International Airport.
"Both philosophically and to accommodate 1,000 to 1,500 aircraft at AOPA Expo '96, AOPA needs complete assurance that San Jose supports the continued operation of the Reid-Hillview airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Santa Clara County officials continue to campaign for closure of the airport, even though San Jose's need for the key reliever airport will increase with planned improvements at nearby San Jose International.
The petition reads, "We call on you to immediately take the steps necessary to officially support the continued operation of Reid-Hillview Airport and to enter into agreement with Santa Clara County to operate Reid-Hillview as a general aviation reliever airport to San Jose International."
Najeeb E. Halaby, recently awarded the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum's lifetime achievement award, has been named chairman of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors.
"From naval aviator to FAA administrator to CEO of Pan Am, Najeeb Halaby has several lifetimes' worth of aviation wisdom," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "He is passionate about aviation safety. His counsel will be invaluable in developing ASF resources and programs."
The ASF Board of Visitors is comprised of distinguished aviators or aviation professionals who volunteer their experience and knowledge to enhance the mission and funding of the non-profit Air Safety Foundation.
Halaby's career has spanned all facets of aviation. A Navy carrier test pilot during World War II, he later pioneered the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. He developed the FAA Flight Academy in Oklahoma City and, along with Alan Body, founded the Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Academy.
He co-chaired President Eisenhower's 1957 commission that shaped the independent Federal Aviation Agency out of the Department of Commerce's Civil Aeronautics Administration. The FAA administrator under President John F. Kennedy, Halaby introduced stringent safety regulations, federal aid to airports, and modern air traffic control systems. From 1969 to 1972, Halaby was chief executive officer of Pan American World Airways. He is currently president of Halaby International Corporation and chairman of the board for the Save the Children Foundation.
Halaby is an active general aviation pilot. He and his wife, Allison, fly their Piper Malibu throughout the United States and overseas.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has confirmed common wisdom: Cessna's ubiquitous 172/Skyhawk is among the safest aircraft flying today.
That finding is published in the eighth issue in a continuing series of type-specific safety reviews. The Cessna C- 172/Skyhawk Safety Review (see " Safety Pilot: Cessna 172 Safety Review," December 1995 Pilot) is based on statistics collected by the Air Safety Foundation's Emil Buehler Center for Aviation Safety, the largest general aviation accident database outside government. The review costs $22.95 plus shipping and handling; it may be ordered by calling Sporty's Pilot Shop at 800/SPORTYS (800/776-7897).
...that the AOPA Aircraft Insurance Program now provides coverage to a wider range of aircraft types and offers coverage at competitive rates for multiengine and turbine aircraft owners? In addition, the AOPA-endorsed policy is now available through 1,600 independent American Eagle insurance agents and the AOPA Aircraft Insurance Agency. American Eagle reports that the launch of the new AOPA-endorsed program with broader coverage has significantly increased its volume of quotes on GA aircraft. For information or a quote from the AOPA Insurance Agency, call 800/622-AOPA (2672).
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has presented its Distinguished Service Award to Harold (Hal) Becker, manager of the FAA's Airspace Rules and Aeronautical Information Division. The presentation was made during AOPA Expo '95 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on October 20.
"Hal Becker is an FAA employee who understands general aviation," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg in the surprise presentation during ASF's Expo reception. "He supports the cause of air safety and, in fact, has been an unsung but key factor in many important programs for general aviation." Landsberg told ASF friends and supporters that Becker had been "the voice of reason" when a number of key general aviation safety issues arose at the FAA. For instance, he called Becker "instrumental" in making new sectional chart symbology easier to read and understand.
Landsberg noted that Becker, a Cessna 172 owner, understands how the system really affects the general aviation pilot.
Becker has served in a number of key FAA positions since 1962, including service at the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City. He was appointed to the federal government's Senior Executive Service in 1988. Becker holds a commercial pilot certificate with multiengine and instrument ratings. He is a glider pilot, flight instructor, and ground instructor.
AOPA Online conferences are held on Tuesday evenings from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. They are open to all AOPA members on CompuServe, and member questions are encouraged. To attend a conference, type GO AOPA, then enter the AOPA Forum. Click on "conference" to enter the conference room.
The conference with Hoover will be held in the CompuServe Convention Center (type GO CONVENTION and enter the CompuServe Convention Center). AOPA Online membership is not required to participate in this conference, although an active CompuServe account is needed.
Fuel-price reports from Fillup Flyer Fuel Finder are now available through AOPA Online on CompuServe. The service allows you to search for the lowest fuel prices along a route of flight or in a specific area.
Fillup Flyer offers four report types. The route-based report lists departure, waypoint, en route, and destination stops. Non-stop multiple-destination reports list up to five airports' FBOs. Area reports include up to 10 FBOs located nearest to a specific airport identifier. Statewide reports list the 10 lowest retail fuel prices in the state. Route reports are available for 100LL, Jet A, 80 octane, and auto fuels.
Route-specific reports cost $5 each, and state reports are $10. These fees are billed directly to your CompuServe account and will be included each month in your credit-card billing from CompuServe.
AOPA has announced its schedule of 26 Pilot Town Meetings for 1996. AOPA President Phil Boyer conducts these meetings throughout the nation to talk to pilots about national and local general aviation issues. The face-to-face dialogues also offer pilots the chance to discuss general aviation issues of concern to local pilots and aircraft owners.
Boyer began holding Pilot Town Meetings in 1992. Since then, more than 16,000 pilots have participated in more than 70 meetings.
All AOPA Pilot Town Meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. local time.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.