Satellite weather in jeopardy?

August 17, 2006

Satellite weather in jeopardy?
AOPA works Capitol Hill

It's good to have pros watching out for you, like the congressional experts in AOPA's Washington, D.C., Legislative Affairs office.

Some in the blogosphere are worrying about two bills in Congress that they think might stop satellite broadcasters XM Radio and Sirius from sending weather data to aircraft cockpits.

"If satellite radio broadcasters are prohibited from offering graphical weather service, pilots will lose a reliable and widely available source of in-flight safety information," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.

That's why AOPA has been on top of H.R.998 and S.2418 - the Local Emergency Radio Service Preservation Act - ever since the bills were first introduced in Congress in March 2005.

AOPA's lobbyists have met with the bills' sponsors to make sure the sponsors understand the importance of weather data to pilots and aviation safety.

The sponsors have assured AOPA that it is not their intent to prohibit current or future aviation weather data transmission.

The bills have remained in their respective committees in the House and Senate ever since introduction and are barely moving. "But AOPA's legislative team remains ever vigilant," said Cebula.

The bills are intended to protect local radio broadcasters from competition from national satellite services such as XM Radio and Sirius. They would prohibit digital satellite radio from transmitting "locally differentiated" services, which some think might prohibit transmitting regional radar graphics or weather information to aircraft.

"Even though the sponsors don't intend to stop aviation weather data, the fact remains that the legislation is still in play," said Cebula. "AOPA will continue to make sure that there's no doubt in lawmakers' minds about the link between satellite weather data and safety."

The Department of Transportation also agrees that satellite radio information services are vital to consumers. It's also opposing any attempt to stop satellite services from transmitting weather data.

August 17, 2006