President's Position


November 1, 2003

AOPA President Phil Boyer also serves as the president of IAOPA.

"The FAA promotes aviation safety in the interest of the American public by regulating and overseeing the civil aviation industry to make sure that the United States is operating a safe aviation industry." So begins the regulatory page of the FAA Web site.

The FAA has initiated and modified thousands of regulations over the years. Many of these are developed in-house, that is, within this country, yet virtually all must conform to an outside standard. In fact, the rules governing the types of airspace you fly in, the specifications for your transponder, and the basic requirements for your next flight physical all are dictated by a large international organization. This organization is responsible for our alphabet classes of airspace, such as the old terminal control area (TCA) becoming Class B; METARS and TAFs replacing sequence reports and terminal forecasts; and the very format of our weather and new terms such as BR indicating mist.

Like 187 other countries, the United States is a party to the Convention on International Civil Aviation that brought the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) into being in 1947 to regulate the flow of air traffic between nations.

The standards and recommended practices (SARPs) developed by ICAO are created under the watchful eye and with the participation of FAA and Department of Transportation (DOT) delegates to ICAO meetings. In fact, a number of proposals are made by the United States each year to change or modify these SARPs. But the United States has only one vote on the ICAO Council of 36 members and doesn't always get its way.

Airspace structure, pilot certification, aircraft communications, navigation and surveillance equipment, airport design standards, air traffic procedures, security, and more emanate from an imposing 16-story building in Montreal, Canada, the headquarters of ICAO. Each SARP obligates us to conform to the rest of the world unless the FAA wishes to take exception, an action normally reserved for major differences.

In the late 1950s AOPA came to realize that virtually all of the directives coming from ICAO related to the airlines, with little regard for the needs and desires of general aviation interests. Working with four other countries that had formed AOPAs of their own — Australia, Canada, Philippines, and South Africa — your association applied to ICAO for observer status. This would give us a voice in international deliberations but no vote within the commissions or the council, this being reserved exclusively for the member states. Previously, other interest groups — airlines, airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and others — had been granted observer status, and in 1964 ICAO recognized the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) as an observer representing the interests of international general aviation. Since that time IAOPA has spoken on general aviation issues not only in ICAO but also in other international aviation groups. The original five AOPAs have grown to 58 affiliates around the world, each seeking to influence the process of rulemaking before it gets to their country. I also serve as the president of IAOPA and have the privilege of coordinating the activities of our worldwide affiliates in their diverse activities.

The United States was once the clear leader in aviation technology and procedures, serving as a principal source for ICAO deliberations. Now the European Union and Asian countries have become equal partners in moving civil aviation forward, exerting strong influence in international aviation affairs. That has made our participation in international aviation forums more important because other countries' expectations regarding general aviation are often very different from ours.

IAOPA representatives to ICAO have monitored and participated in virtually every major action coming from ICAO within the past 40 years. Within the past two years our representatives have participated in worldwide aviation conferences addressing how air traffic service providers and airports charge for their services, how air traffic management will evolve, and security requirements for all types of civil aviation. Our representatives also participate in smaller panel sessions concentrating on operational procedures, flight crew licensing, and customs facilitation.

While these issues may seem remote to you now, in the next five to 10 years you might be required to install different types of electronic equipment, fly through new types of airspace, and implement security procedures, if it were not for our voice. All of this has the potential for making our flying more expensive and restricted. It is essential that we educate the world's aviation regulatory agencies regarding general aviation needs and desires, and work to achieve common goals. More to the point, our representatives have reaped major concessions and implementation delays from ICAO proposals over the years in virtually every aspect of aviation operations; our regulatory structure both here and around the world would be different if it were not for IAOPA's involvement in Montreal.

Our IAOPA representatives work hard in ICAO and other international forums to stay ahead of the rapid progress of these events. I invite you to view the excellent work IAOPA has achieved for all of us at its Web site ( Keep in mind that any new or modified regulation may have been influenced from someplace outside FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and your association was very likely involved.