AOPA fighting GA restrictions at JFK, EWR

July 23, 2008

AOPA is opposing restrictions on general aviation operations at John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Newark Liberty (EWR) international airports “because they could establish a principle that could be used for restricting access at airports across the country,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.

The FAA has taken two steps to keep GA out of the two New York area airports; a short-term order that limits GA to one or two flights per hour at each airport (except between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.), and a longer-term proposed rule that would not only limit GA operations, but also auction off landing slots to the highest bidder.

“Virtually every segment of the aviation community and Congress oppose ‘congestion pricing,’” said Cebula, “yet the Department of Transportation and the FAA are unilaterally and without authority bulling ahead to set user fees to control airport access.”

The DOT’s 2009 appropriations bill (S.3261) now pending in the Senate would specifically prohibit new user fees, as have appropriations bills in the past. The Senate Appropriations Committee noted that the DOT said in 2006 that it did not have the “statutory authority to assess market-clearing charges for a landing or departure authorization,” and that the committee “has serious questions regarding both the legality and the wisdom of this aspect of the DOT’s proposed rule.” ( See the committee report on S.3261).

And the FAA has failed to consider what would happen to other area airports if its GA-limiting rules were to go into effect.

“The agency has ignored the potential impact of off-loading approximately 20,000 operations to adjacent airports that may not be prepared to handle additional capacity or demand,” AOPA said in its formal comments July 21. The order and proposal to cut general aviation operations by more than 50 percent “is a blatant dismissal of the need for flexibility and access to airports in the New York area.”

AOPA noted that GA traffic is only 2 percent of total operations at JFK and 4 percent at EWR.

“Based on the lack of analysis, detail, and a conflict with congressional direction, AOPA recommends that the FAA suspend the proposed limitation on unscheduled operations and the slot auction system,” Cebula wrote in the comments. “Once additional clarification and examination of the FAA’s plan has been provided, additional public comments should be solicited.”