October 1, 2000
William R. Deere
The year 2000 has seen a major milestone for general aviation. In March the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, known as AIR-21. On April 5, President Clinton signed the bill into law and ended the decade-long battle to unlock the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. However, many battles lie on the horizon. Whether or not we will continue to pay fuel taxes or new user fees, the future management structure of the FAA, and access to GA airports—especially those located in wilderness areas—are among the issues that will come before our elected leaders in Washington, D.C.
AOPA spends significant time and resources working with members of Congress and their staffs on behalf of GA pilots and aircraft owners. Located between the steps of the Capitol and the doors of the FAA, AOPA Legislative Affairs works in tandem with the staff at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, to make sure that the voices of AOPA's 360,000 members are heard by those with the power to decide the future of GA.
However, supporters of GA cannot remain successful without the essential support of AOPA's Political Action Committee (AOPA PAC). The driving force that ensures that our members' voices will be heard on Capitol Hill, AOPA PAC provides financial support to the candidates for the Senate and House who will be most likely to support AOPA's position on issues pending before Congress.
Many of the challengers and incumbents who receive support from AOPA PAC are pilots and AOPA members. Others—who are aware of the vital role GA plays in the economy—have used their power and influence in Congress to fight for GA. AOPA PAC dedicates its financial support to a wide range of lawmakers and candidates. Leaders and chairmen of key committees in the House and Senate have benefited from our support, as well as members of those committees that indirectly impact GA—such as the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House and Senate appropriations committees. Whether they are Republican or Democrat, AOPA PAC supports those candidates who have demonstrated an interest in protecting your right to fly.
Federal law prohibits AOPA from using your annual dues to contribute to political campaigns. So, AOPA PAC serves that function by using the money that members contribute on a strictly voluntary basis. It is the generous contributions from AOPA members who support AOPA PAC that allow us to contribute to those pilots and other candidates who support GA. Without this vital support they may lose the financial edge that they need to win on election day.
Please take a few moments to look at several of the candidates who have demonstrated an interest in protecting GA. These are the individuals running with the financial support of AOPA PAC. While they may have differing views on taxes, education, and welfare, rest assured that they are dedicated to protecting GA. To learn more about candidates who support AOPA, visit our Web site ( www.aopa.org/whatsnew/caphill.cfm).
William R. Deere is vice president and executive director of AOPA Legislative Affairs.
Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri is an experienced member of the Senate aviation subcommittee. A pilot, Ashcroft is facing a tough reelection campaign against sitting Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan. Ashcroft is a vocal critic of new user fees and has repeatedly helped fend off attempts by the Clinton administration to place new user fees in the annual federal budget. His own passion for GA has given him a special insight on the battles AOPA fights on Capitol Hill every day.
Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and reelected in a special election in 1994. He now faces a strong competitor in Republican Duane Sand. A strong supporter of GA, Conrad was at times the lone voice in advocating "unlocking" the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. His hard work in this area allowed AOPA to win a long-fought battle to open the trust fund so the billions of dollars could be used to update our aging airport and airway system.
Darrell Issa is running for the open seat in California's 48th District. Issa is an AOPA member and pilot who, during meetings with AOPA staff earlier this year, pledged to work diligently on behalf of GA if he is elected. He is the founder and CEO of Directed Electronics, the industry-leading manufacturer of automobile security systems. His small-business experience and his views of taxation, coupled with his aviation background, make him an ally in AOPA's ongoing efforts to defeat proposals for new user fees or aviation tax increases.
Rep. Rick Lazio is running in what may be the most closely watched contest outside of the Bush/ Gore match-up?the New York Senate race. Elected to the House in 1992 from his Long Island hometown of Brightwaters, Lazio has long been a friend to GA. Lazio was a strong supporter of the AIR-21 legislation that increased funding for the FAA. In addition, Lazio has been active on the local level by helping to mediate differences between groups over noise abatement issues at Long Island's MacArthur Airport.
Robin Hayes of North Carolina's 8th District was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998 following a tougher-than-expected race against lawyer Mike Taylor. His rematch this year is expected to be just as close. An AOPA member for 25 years, Hayes is a commercial pilot with multiengine and instrument ratings. He recently purchased a Beechcraft King Air 200, which he flies for business and campaign purposes. AOPA has few friends in the House of Representatives as strong as Hayes.
Sen. Zell Miller is the former governor of the state of Georgia who was recently appointed to the U.S. Senate following the death of Sen. Paul Coverdell. Miller began his political career in 1959, and he was elected to the Georgia State Senate at the age of 28. A dedicated supporter of aviation, Miller was the recipient of AOPA's Presidential Citation in June 1998 for his efforts to secure $35 million to improve the state's GA airports during his term in office. We expect that his tenure in the U.S. Senate will be equally advantageous to GA.
Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa's 3rd District is an enthusiastic pilot, aircraft owner, and AOPA member who earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses during his two tours in Vietnam. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1996, Boswell frequently uses his position on the House aviation subcommittee and Resources Committee to fight for issues important to AOPA, including efforts to stop the closure of backcountry airstrips. Thanks to his support and influence, the FAA has not been given the power to collect new user fees. Boswell is always willing to listen to AOPA's concerns and never hesitates to hold his ground on important issues that will benefit pilots.
Rep. Steve Kuykendall is seeking his first reelection to Congress from California's 36th District. Representing the district that includes the Los Angeles International Airport, Kuykendall has been a strong advocate for issues supported by AOPA. From his position on the House aviation subcommittee, Kuykendall has been a close ally in AOPA's effort to prevent the Clinton administration from implementing new user fees. The former president of a Lockheed Corporation subsidiary, Kuykendall has always been receptive to the positions advocated by AOPA.
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota's 7th District is seeking a fifth term as a member of the House of Representatives. An AOPA member, private pilot, and aircraft owner, Peterson's efforts to pass the AIR-21 legislation helped secure more than $5 million in funding to begin major improvements at the St. Cloud Regional Airport. A certified public accountant, Peterson's knowledge of tax issues has made him a strong AOPA ally in defeating proposals calling for new user fees or increases in the aviation fuel tax.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California's 10th District is a member of the House aviation subcommittee who is seeking her third term as a member of the House of Representatives. A strong proponent of AIR-21, Tauscher came to the aid of AOPA members in 1999 by introducing legislation that would reverse the 1980 IRS decision to retroactively penalize veterans who took a legitimate tax deduction for flight training expenses. Her continued work on the subcommittee will be of great benefit to AOPA.
What is your experience with general aviation? Have you used general aviation, for example, in your political or business career?
Before entering business and politics, jobs that require frequent use of general aviation, I flew F-102 fighters in the Texas Air National Guard. In my two campaigns for governor of Texas, I flew to dozens of Texas cities not served by commercial aviation, often visiting several cities each day. As governor, I joined thousands of Texas aircraft owners who depend on general aviation aircraft to carry out their day-to-day responsibilities, and I frequently used State Aircraft Pooling Board planes to conduct official business throughout the state. I currently use general aviation as I campaign for president across the country.
To date in your career as an elected official, what is the most important action you have taken to support general aviation?
As a frequent traveler to general aviation airports around the state, I was pleased to sign state budgets that substantially increased state investments in general aviation. For the Airport Improvement Program, total spending on general aviation airports in Texas has increased by 150 percent between fiscal year 1994 and fiscal year 2001. Overall, state funds budgeted for general aviation airports in Texas have increased by 500 percent over the same time period.
Historically, the FAA has received a portion of its air traffic control budget from the U.S. Treasury's general fund to cover, among other things, the cost of government and military use of the air traffic control system. The current administration has proposed eliminating this contribution to the FAA's budget. The current FAA legislation will expire during your term of office. Would your administration support eliminating the general fund contribution?
The FAA is the aviation system's safety regulator. Air safety regulation is a responsibility of the federal government and should be paid for out of general fund revenues. The federal government should also pay for the use of air traffic services by military and civil-government aircraft.
The current administration, think tanks, and some airlines have proposed a variety of management structures for the FAA's air traffic control system. Is air traffic control a government function or should it be spun off to the private sector?
The air traffic control system in this country has reached a critical stage in which the safety of the traveling public may become at risk unless improvements can be made in the management and implementation of the new technologies for controlling the rapidly increasing number of airplanes in the system.
The time has come to take a fresh look at the system and bring in people to implement new procedures and programs that will take air traffic control into the twenty-first century. There is a growing consensus that the FAA has not successfully carried out its responsibilities to provide an air traffic control system that can adequately and safely meet the requirements of the twenty-first century for reliable air transportation. As president, I will place the highest priority on finding solutions to air traffic control problems that this administration has been unable to solve. I will solve the management problems and find ways to use the advanced technology that is already being used by other countries.
Some airlines and the current administration have proposed to replace the current passive aviation fuel and ticket taxes with a charge based on each component of a flight. Would you support such a plan?
Any system of charges for the use of the air traffic control system should employ the current general aviation fuel tax as a benchmark. The fuel tax assesses equitable charges to general aviation users, while the ticket tax has been an efficient way for commercial aviation passengers to pay for their use of the system. Additionally, the functions provided to general aviation by flight service stations have safety implications, and those services should continue to be provided at no charge to pilots. In no way should the system be made unaffordable for the hundreds of thousands of private pilots in America.
General aviation airports have suffered for a lack of funding. On average, one general aviation airport a week is closed. Do you support investment in general aviation airports as part of the national airport system?
I believe continued investment in general aviation airports is important. I support Congress's recent action to increase the size of the Airport Improvement Program, which includes support for general aviation airports.
During your term you will be nominating at least one FAA administrator. What qualities will you be looking for in a nominee?
As president, I will appoint people who are highly qualified and meet the highest ethical standards. As governor, I have appointed people who share my compassionate conservative philosophy and my belief in local control, limited government, strong families, and individual responsibility. I consider a potential appointee's experience and his or her knowledge of relevant issues. A new FAA administrator should understand the workings of the federal government system and have both private industry and aviation experience. This person will likely preside over a significant change in the FAA's role, as its largest function?air traffic control?will be brought into the twenty-first century. The new FAA administrator will be required to adopt modern management practices and to develop and initiate systems that will meet the requirements of a rapidly expanding aviation industry.
What is your experience with general aviation? Have you ever used general aviation, for example, in your political or business career?
Prior to being elected to serve as vice president in 1992, Al Gore served eight years as a member of Congress and another eight years as a senator from Tennessee. Traveling around a state the size of Tennessee to meet with constituents can pose significant challenges, not the least of which is the fact that the state stretches nearly 500 miles east to west.
Gore was able to meet with people and stay on schedule only with the help of a number of dedicated pilots who operated their piston- and turbine-powered aircraft with great skill. Whether it was over the Great Smoky Mountains in the east, to the rolling farmlands of Middle Tennessee, to the low plateau leading toward the Mississippi River in the west, Gore has been a regular in the right seat of many GA aircraft.
During his time in public office, Gore has met with private pilots and used their advice and counsel as he worked on a number of initiatives to improve the nation's aviation system. Whether it was by investing in the research and development of new general aviation technologies in the NASA authorization bills or by working with the FAA, Gore has been keenly aware of the needs of the GA community and actively supported those measures.
In 1994, the president signed the General Aviation Revitalization Act into law. Gore strongly supported this legislation and urged that the president sign this important measure into law. Since that time, manufacturing employment has grown, new piston-powered engine aircraft are being built, and new pilots are becoming certified to fly.
But the renewed strength of the GA community would not have occurred without a strong, vibrant economy. Working with President Clinton, Gore has created the framework for the longest, most sustained period of peacetime economic expansion and growth this country has ever experienced. This has created jobs, new wealth, and made opportunities available for more people to become general aviation pilots and users of the air transportation system.
Historically, the FAA has received a portion of its air traffic control budget from the U.S. Treasury's general fund to cover, among other things, the cost of government and military use of the air traffic control system. The current administration has proposed eliminating this contribution to the FAA's budget. The current FAA legislation will expire during your term in office. Would your administration support eliminating the general fund contribution?
With the enactment of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment Reform Act (FAIR-21), Congress now has dedicated the revenues from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to cover the federal costs related to airport development and modernization of the air traffic control system. Unfortunately, while Congress guaranteed spending on these capital programs, it did not give FAA operations the same certainty. As such, in order to adequately fund the safe and efficient operation of the nation's air traffic control system, the FAA will be forced to compete for scarce discretionary appropriations.
It is imperative that the FAA be provided the resources to continue to safely operate the national airspace system, regardless of the source of those revenues. As president, Gore would look forward to working with Congress to define funding mechanisms that would ensure the FAA has the resources available to safely and efficiently manage the air transportation system.
The current administration, think tanks, and some airlines have proposed a variety of management structures for FAA's air traffic control system. Is air traffic control a government function or should it be spun off to the private sector?
The FAA maintains the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world. Yet, record traffic and airline delays have frustrated many travelers to the point where something more must be done. Following the recommendations of expert industry panels, such as the 1997 National Civil Aviation Review Commission, the administration proposed to restructure the FAA's air traffic management responsibilities, allowing the FAA to focus on establishing safety standards and regulations while creating an organization to operate the air traffic control system. This "performance-based" organization was proposed to ensure that the users, including general aviation pilots, would constantly measure the FAA's performance. In addition, with increased user oversight, the cost of air traffic services would be better controlled and efficiencies maximized.
While Congress rejected this approach, a number of the administration's proposals were adopted, including the creation of a five-member air traffic services subcommittee of the FAA's Management Advisory Committee and the establishment of a new chief operating officer position within the FAA.
Gore continues to believe we must find ways to accommodate growing levels of air traffic without compromising safety. As president, Gore will be committed to exploring ways to improve the effectiveness of the FAA and enhance safety, making it more responsive to users, and to increase the efficiencies of the air traffic control system. In saying this, however, it is important to note that Gore opposes efforts to privatize the air traffic control system.
Gore supports continuation of the current law requirement that general aviation pay fuel taxes to be deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. This is the most effective and practical way to ensure that GA continues to be a part of the air traffic control system. Gore came to that conclusion in 1994 and remains committed to that position.
Gore wants to make clear, however, that he supports efforts to identify cost-based charges on commercial airlines, as the current approach leads to inefficiencies to both the provision and use of the air traffic control system by the airlines. But if elected president, he would not advocate extending this approach to general aviation.
General aviation airports have suffered for a lack of funding. On average, one general aviation airport a week is closed. Do you support investment in general aviation airports as a part of the national airport system?
Gore is pleased that the recently enacted FAIR-21 provides significant increases in funding the Airport Improvement Program, with $3.2 billion beginning in fiscal year 2001. Equally important is the fact that Congress supported the administration's call for increased passenger facility charges. The added airport capacity that will result from these measures is needed to help ensure that commercial service and general aviation airports can safely handle expected future growth in air travel.
Gore also supports initiatives in FAIR-21 that are aimed directly at general aviation airports. Whether it is the new entitlement for general aviation airports or provisions that make runway maintenance at general aviation airports eligible for federal AIP grants, these changes in law will help enhance opportunities for private pilots throughout the nation. Al Gore supports these new measures and as president will look to continue to refocus airport development policies in ways that better meet the changing needs of your industry.
First, let's applaud the exemplary leadership of the FAA by the current administrator, Jane Garvey. She is the first FAA administrator appointed to a fixed five-year term, a provision that was important to AOPA. There could be no better person to serve as FAA administrator for this first five-year fixed term.
As president, the appointment of a qualified FAA administrator to succeed Garvey would be one of Gore's highest priorities. Fortunately, her term does not expire until 2001 and barring any unforeseen change in her circumstances, Gore will be able to work with the secretary of transportation to identify a strong field of candidates. Of course, it will be imperative to select an individual who has experience in a field directly related to aviation, which is required by law, as well as someone who understands the complexities of this country's aviation system. It is also essential that the FAA administrator be able to work with Congress, the aviation community, and users of the air transportation system to ensure the continued safe, secure, and efficient operation of our nation's aviation system.
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As the cold weather chills AOPA’s Headquarters in Frederick, many of us are inside generating new resources for flying clubs.
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