January 6, 2009
President Barack Obama’s choices for Secretary of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administrator will have a big effect on the political and regulatory climate in which pilots will fly for the next four years. But given the nation’s current economic, environmental, and security conditions, other positions need to be watched, as well.
AOPA is keeping close track of who is selected and letting our members and the entire aviation community know right away what those selections mean. Using drop-down boxes, the special Obama Administration box lists the positions and why they are important to general aviation. As positions are filled, the drop-down boxes are checked off, and information about the specific nominees is added.
The Secretary of Transportation has the responsibility of developing and implementing policies across all modes of transportation, including aviation. As a cabinet-level representative for aviation, the appointee is a central person for FAA funding, ATC modernization, and FAA policy and rulemaking that affects pilots and aircraft.
Randy Babbitt, formerly an aviation and labor relations consultant and president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), was sworn in as the FAA’s sixteenth administrator on June 1. The FAA administrator is at the controls of all aviation regulations and policies; he will play a key role in airport funding and ATC modernization.
The DHS secretary is responsible for securing and defending the homeland, short of a direct military response. Napolitano will be in charge of a multi-agency, coordinated effort to secure the U.S. borders and check people entering the country. She will oversee many departments that affect general aviation, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The head of the TSA is responsible for developing and implementing security policies for each mode of transportation, including aviation. This person will have a direct impact on how heavily the government pursues mandatory general aviation security regulation.
Charged with securing the U.S. borders, the head of the CBP establishes policies and regulations for border crossing. This position influences the regulation of general aviation’s international operations, as demonstrated by the recent electronic advance passenger information rule.
The Environmental Protection Agency oversees implementation of environmental policies across the country. Though the agency develops policy, it is typically implemented at the state level, except for aviation. Environmental policies concerning aviation must be developed in conjunction with the FAA. The EPA will play a key role in the future of avgas and aircraft emissions.
OMB’s predominant mission is to assist the president in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and to supervise its administration in executive branch agencies. This includes funding ATC modernization, the FAA, aviation safety, and airport improvements. Historically, the OMB has favored more money coming from aviation users than from the general fund. The office also weighs the cost and benefit of all proposed federal regulations. AOPA has met with the OMB multiple times on key issues such as the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area, Large Aircraft Security Program, and custom’s Advance Passenger Information System.
Economic and policy advisors guide the president on government policies—from broad international and defense policies to specific aviation policies. The views these advisors have on general aviation will influence the proposed regulations coming from the administration.
A new FAA policy on obstructive sleep apnea that addresses many of the concerns raised by AOPA is scheduled to take effect March 2.
AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association have jointly filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the ongoing legal battle over the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
AOPA worked with the flight training industry and FAA to quickly resolve a problem that suddenly put many rating applications on hold.
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