Latest FAA "Flight Plan" needs more for GA, says AOPA

August 18, 2005

Latest FAA "Flight Plan" needs more for GA, says AOPA

FAA Flight Plan 2006-2010

Give credit to improved general aviation safety. Stop ignoring the effect of security restrictions on efficient airspace use. Change the rules to allow more WAAS approaches into GA airports. And for heaven's sake, stop setting the stage for user fees!

Those are the bullet points of AOPA's comments on the FAA's latest draft of its "to-do list," the FAA Flight Plan 2006-2010.

"While the FAA incorporated many of AOPA's previous recommendations in this update, there are still issues that must be addressed," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The FAA should never forget that general aviation is its 'customer' too - and the GA pilot is the only one who pays the bills out of his own pocket."

The Flight Plan is the FAA's strategic planning document, setting goals for the agency and measuring its progress in achieving them. And much to the FAA's credit, it has involved its "customers" and "stakeholders" - the flying community - in the process.

"We thank the FAA for allowing AOPA the opportunity to share general aviation's perspective on the flight plan," said Boyer. "We believe GA will continue to grow, continue to fly securely, and continue to improve its safety record. With the AOPA-recommended additions and changes to the Flight Plan, we believe the FAA will have fully included GA in its mission."

AOPA wants the FAA to highlight the long-term GA safety improvements in its list of successes. In the last decade, there has been a 25-percent decrease in general aviation accidents. "The working partnership of the general aviation community with the FAA has achieved much of this safety improvement," AOPA said.

The association also believes that the addition of GPS-WAAS instrument approaches to more GA airports would help improve safety. AOPA called for rule changes to allow that to happen, noting that current regulations, designed for air carrier airports, prohibit precision instrument approaches into many GA airports. Requirements for full-length parallel taxiways and extensive clear zones, for example, are not necessary for safe instrument operations at non-air carrier airports and are frequently impossible to implement at many GA airports.

"The Flight Plan must include the severe impact airspace security restrictions have on general aviation operations and the air traffic control system," AOPA said. While the FAA doesn't control security restrictions such as presidential TFRs and the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, "the agency cannot continue ignoring their effects on the aviation system."

The agency must do a better job of disseminating airspace information, particularly security-related restrictions. That means improvements to the notam system. The FAA must also take the lead to make international navigation data available to users, since the Department of Defense is withdrawing its charts and databases.

The FAA must do everything possible to protect general aviation airports, as access to non-air carrier airports will be essential to meet the demands of the projected expansion in GA activity.

Finally, there is the issue of the FAA "funding crisis."

"AOPA does not agree with the contention that the funding system is 'broken,'" said Boyer. While the Flight Plan doesn't directly state that the current system should be replaced with user fees, "it certainly lays the groundwork," Boyer said. "It is imperative that the FAA look at its costs and that it identify ways to reduce the funding needed to provide essential services."

August 18, 2005