GA must stand united, Congressmen say

August 1, 2009

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), right, answers a question. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), right, answers a question. From left are EAA President Tom Poberezny, moderator; Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.); and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa).

All segments of general aviation—from business aviation to light sport aviation—must stand united in the fight against user fees, said Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) during an open legislative forum Aug. 1 at EAA AirVenture.

The forum, which gave children and adults the opportunity to meet the congressmen and ask questions regarding GA issues, focused largely on user fees and recent security measures in the works by the Transportation Security Administration.

Regarding FAA reauthorization, Petri, the ranking member of the House aviation subcommittee, said that the Senate had indicated it would pass a reauthorization bill (S.1451) by the end of the calendar year. The House passed its reauthorization bill (H.R.915) without user fees in May. “We want to get to conference to work out a good bill,” Petri said.

“We are opposed to user fees, period,” Boswell commented, drawing a cheering round of applause from the audience.

Graves explained the driving force behind user fees in an effort to underscore the importance of the GA community remaining united through this fight. The primary concern that continues to foster the user fee proposal is how to pay for a new air traffic control system called NextGen.

“We have to be very careful that the proponents of user fees don’t split general aviation apart,” Graves said, explaining that it’s a “divide and conquer” strategy. “All of general aviation has to stick together,” he emphasized.

Petri reminded the audience that user fees isn’t the only issue threatening to divide GA—it’s also destructive legislation, he said, referring to some of the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed regulations.

The TSA’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), which would impose airline-styles security regulations on GA aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, and Security Directive 8G, which requires pilots based at commercial-services airports to get security badges, are currently under scrutiny.

“We’re trying to get a compromise,” said Graves, adding that AOPA, EAA, the National Business Aviation, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and other groups have been working with the TSA on some commonsense solutions for both programs.

AOPA President Craig Fuller (right) talks with Congressmen and NBAA president at EAA Legislative forum. AOPA President Craig Fuller (right) talks with,
from left, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and
NBAA President Ed Bolen at Oshkosh before EAA’s forum
on legistlative issues.

The level of attention these programs are getting wouldn’t have been possible without the “thousands upon thousands” of letters submitted during the LASP comment period, Graves said. “You’ve got to stay active. You’ve got to let the government know where we stand on this.” Boswell also stressed the importance of pilots writing to their members of Congress to express their concerns about various GA issues and suggest possible solutions.

Staying politically active and standing united will be the key to GA’s success, and EAA AirVenture is an example of the success possible. In closing the forum, Petri reminded pilots that “celebration of aviation is a celebration of freedom as well.”