AOPA helps Congress battle regulatory 'tsunami'

June 11, 2012

AOPA, responding to a congressional invitation to identify regulatory drag on jobs and the economy, named six existing or proposed regulations threatening the well-being of the $150 billion general aviation industry.

AOPA presented its positions on the regulations—dealing with air carrier pilot certification requirements; cross-border GA flights; aircraft re-registration; an AOPA-backed medical certification exemption proposal; an airport security directive; and recent flight-school certification changes—in a June 8 letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and a subcommittee on regulatory affairs.

The committee solicited the association’s assessment of the impact of regulations, and federal agency compliance with the rulemaking process, on job growth in a May 16 letter to AOPA President Craig Fuller. Burdensome regulations “continue to plague the economy,” the letter said, also noting that “hundreds of costly new rules are in the pipeline.”

Although GA is “a heavily regulated industry and can point to many regulations that impact job retainment and growth in our industry,” AOPA provided six regulations that warrant committee scrutiny, wrote Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs, to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) and subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

New congressionally mandated pilot certification requirements for air carrier operations threaten the flight training industry, would raise costs for student pilots, and could reduce the overall number of pilots, she wrote.

A 2008 requirement for private aircraft to provide advance information before arriving or departing the United States threatened to suppress the number of international flights, according to an AOPA member survey. AOPA described the rule put forth by Customs and Border Protection as “operationally unworkable” in a Dec. 4, 2007, letter to the agency. No security rationale justified the departure procedures, AOPA said.

A survey made it clear that members objected to increased burdens placed on aircraft owners from aircraft re-registration implemented by the FAA in 2010 as the agency pursued improving the accuracy of its aircraft registry. AOPA offered alternative solutions to the FAA, she wrote. The association continues to publish guidance and schedules to help members comply with the complex rule.

Howerton pointed out to the committee that AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2012 petition requesting third-class medical certificate exemptions for pilots flying many single-engine aircraft recreationally meets President Barack Obama’s call for eliminating unnecessary regulations, and could reduce government spending by an estimated $11.5 million over 10 years.

Compliance requirements of Transportation Security Administration Security Directive SD-08F could cause some airports with commercial service to limit general aviation access, placing those airports in conflict with federal grant assurances and disrupting GA businesses.

A recently enacted rule requiring pilot in command proficiency checks and other changes to flight school certification procedures are perceived by many instructors as a “significant disincentive” to renewing expired instructor certificates. “This has substantially reduced the number of otherwise qualified and experienced part-time flight instructors available to teach and promote GA,” she wrote.

The congressional committee launched its effort to discover burdensome regulations on Dec. 10, 2010. Since then it has issued two staff reports, queried several government agencies on their practices, and held numerous hearings on the subject. The chairmen noted in their letter to Fuller that “disturbingly, the regulatory ‘tsunami’ does not appear to be slowing down.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.