April 26, 2005
AOPA is concerned over legislation that could eliminate free National Weather Service (NWS) aviation weather products for pilots. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) last week introduced a bill (S. 786) that would prohibit the NWS from offering any "product or service that is or could be provided by the private sector."
"Aviation weather products are critical to general aviation safety and must be available for use by pilots," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "Some 40 percent of all aviation accidents are directly related to weather."
This isn't the first time that someone has tried to shut down free weather information from the government. In 2001, the NWS was forced to pull the plug briefly on its innovative Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) Web site, reportedly under pressure from commercial vendors.
"This bill has the potential to kill much of the information the NWS provides over the Internet, including ADDS," said Rudinger. "And with this legislation in place, the commercial vendors might even make a case for the complete privatization of weather products."
In the past, AOPA has successfully protected aviation weather products from so-called "non-compete" efforts. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, where Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is very aware of the importance of readily available weather information to general aviation pilots. Committee member Sen. Bill Nelson of hurricane-ravaged Florida has already expressed his opposition to Santorum's bill.
He'll be getting plenty of support from AOPA.
[See also AOPA's Air Traffic Services brief.]
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