February 7, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Keeping user fees out of the new FAA reauthorization bill was a “big win” for general aviation—but vigilance and education efforts must continue, said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the House GA Caucus co-chairman and member of the conference committee that produced the final bill.
Graves, in a statement, highlighted favorable provisions for GA that he succeeded in inserting in the legislation, from language protecting so-called through-the-fence access to airports by pilots who own adjacent homes, to a requirement for the FAA to preserve vintage aircraft type-certificate data. Another provision ensures that pilots do not have to acquire ADS-B In equipment before it is certified for use in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
“It was a big win for general aviation to keep user fees out of this bill,” Graves said. “We are going to have to be vigilant and be prepared to educate members on why user fees are a bad idea.”
Language to protect through-the-fence agreements will continue to ensure access to airports by aircraft owners who have hangar homes on adjacent privately owned property. Provisions added by Graves will protect existing agreements at about 75 airports, and allow future agreements between airports and adjacent residential property owners.
Last March, the FAA issued interim rules—to be reviewed in 2014—that preserved existing access to airports, but paved a more difficult path for future agreements. AOPA supported the FAA in its willingness to revisit the rules in the future.
“Protecting the through the fence agreements was a top priority of mine,” said Graves. “Once again, Washington tried to tell local airports that it knew best. My language protects the agreements already in place and allows airports to make their own decisions about future agreements.”
Under another provision the FAA must preserve vintage aircraft type certificate data from 1927 to 1939. The data must be available to the public upon request for review and duplication.
“This is basically saving the blueprints of civil aviation,” said Graves. “It will not be used for commercial purposes, but to make the historical record available for anyone who wants to see it.”
The FAA will be required to work with industry to research and develop an alternative GA avgas that works for the entire fleet, recognizing that “it is not feasible to equip GA airports with multiple fuel systems.
Pilots would not be required to equip their aircraft with ADS-B-In technology not yet certified, even when consistent with NextGen requirements. An aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) that has studied ADS-B issued a report in November 2011 opposing a mandate for aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B In technology in the near or mid-term. The committee did support voluntary deployment of the equipment, which allows pilots to see some weather, and traffic.
Another provision inserted in the bill by Graves requires commercial airports that are crafting new master plans to consider passenger convenience, airport ground access, and access to airport facilities.
“We have a great champion for GA in Congressman Graves. We are grateful for all he has done, and continues to do, for general aviation and we appreciate his dedicated work on this important bill,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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