107th Congress — First Session
Foreign Operations Spending Bill Includes Shoot-Down Provision
Update: Dec. 21, 2001 — The compromise foreign operations appropriations bill (H.R. 2506) that passed the House of Representatives Wednesday night and the Senate yesterday afternoon includes an AOPA-backed provision that withholds funds to support a Peruvian air interdiction program until the Bush administration sets up safeguards to protect civilian aircraft. This provision was added to the House version of the spending bill by Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) after the fatal shoot down of a civilian aircraft carrying U.S. missionaries on April 20. The spending bill will now go to the President for signature.
The language in the conference report is as follows:
(Andean Counterdrug Initiative section). "That none of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available to support a Peruvian air interdiction program until the Secretary of State and Director of Central Intelligence certify to the Congress, 30 days before any resumption of United States involvement in a Peruvian air interdiction program, that an air interdiction program that permits the ability of the Peruvian Air Force to shoot down aircraft will include enhanced safeguards and procedures to prevent the occurrence of any incident similar to the April 20, 2001 incident."
Over the past 15 years, AOPA has lobbied against proposed changes in policy authorizing the shoot down or force down of civil aircraft here and abroad. After the April 20 incident, AOPA President Phil Boyer was invited to submit testimony for the record on May 1 for the House criminal justice, drug policy, and human resources subcommittee hearing on U.S. Drug Interdiction Efforts in South America. Boyer's testimony condemned the use of deadly force against civilian aircraft.
House Passes Defense Authorization With No Warbird Provision; Bill Heads to Senate
Update: Dec. 13, 2001, 1:37:15 PM ET — The House passed the conference report to accompany the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1438) this morning by a vote of 382-40. House-Senate conferees on S. 1438 reached an agreement yesterday and removed the "warbird provision" in the final version of the legislation. According to congressional sources, the conferees were unable to agree on the specifics of this provision (Sec. 1062 of S. 1438), so it was not included. The Senate could vote on the conference report as early as tomorrow, and the President is expected to sign the legislation. AOPA worked with the conferees, in particular Chairman Bob Stump of the House Armed Services Committee (R-Ariz.), Senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.), and AOPA member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to remove this section that could have resulted in the destruction of vintage military aircraft. For more information on this issue, see "AOPA continues efforts to change 'warbird' legislation."
Rep. Lipinski to Offer Bill to Ensure Future of Meigs Field
AOPA Urges Support for Similar Senate Bill
Dec. 11, 2001 — AOPA Legislative Affairs has confirmed that Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) intends to offer companion legislation to Senator Durbin's bill (S. 1786), the National Aviation Capacity Expansion Act, this afternoon. Rep. Lipinski's bill is identical in content to S. 1786, which would legislate the historic agreement reached by Illinois Governor George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley that would continue the operation of Meigs Field for another 25 years, expand O'Hare International, and create a new airport at Peotone. AOPA Legislative Affairs will continue to work with Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lipinski and their staff for passage of this legislation. AOPA has pledged its support to both Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lipinski.
In a letter sent to the entire Senate today, AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote, "We believe that it is necessary to codify [the governor's and mayor's] agreement so that Chicago's airports, which are vital to the nation's economic health, are assured of continued operation and health." Boyer urged the senator to support the legislation, stating, "AOPA members throughout the United States see this airport as an 'icon' and its closure would be seen as a harbinger for closure of these pilots' home airports. With approximately 50,000 operations per year, Meigs serves as an important 'reliever' airport for business and general aviation aircraft to congested Midway and O'Hare Airports." Boyer will send a similar letter to the House of Representatives once the House legislation is introduced.
The decision to codify the governor and mayor's agreement stems from the desire to prevent Chicago-area airports from becoming a constant political football between state and local officials. AOPA President Phil Boyer spoke at a press conference held by Senator Durbin last Friday to give support to codifying the governor and mayor's agreement in federal legislation.
Meigs Amendment Filibustered
Bill Sponsors Taking Different Tack
Dec. 10, 2001 — The first attempt to write the Meigs Field agreement into federal law was defeated after Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) began a filibuster. He objected to legislation (S. 1786), which would have cemented the historic agreement between Illinois Governor George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley that preserves Meigs, expands O'Hare International, and creates a new airport at Peotone. Sen. Fitzgerald does support, however, the continuance of Meigs Field — he had attempted to include language in the transportation appropriations legislation that would have preserved reliever airports such as Meigs Field.
But the deal is far from dead.
The sponsors of S. 1786, which was offered as an amendment to the Defense Appropriations measure, withdrew the bill after Fitzgerald's filibuster. But Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and AOPA members Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), continue working for passage of legislation that would continue the operation of Meigs Field for another 25 years.
Since the senators were unable to get S. 1786 attached to the defense spending bill, Senator Durbin aims to add more cosponsors, for a total of 51, so that the bill may pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. Many believe that the prospects for this are good, as the deal that would be codified has many benefits for small communities along with the enormous benefits that will accrue to GA with the continued operation of Meigs Field.
On the House side, Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) will introduce companion legislation this week. The decision to codify the agreement stems from the desire to prevent Chicago-area airports from becoming a constant political football between state and local officials. AOPA President Phil Boyer spoke at a press conference on Friday to give support to codifying the governor and mayor's agreement in federal legislation.
Senators Introduce Bill to Ensure Meigs Future
AOPA President Boyer Gives GA Perspective
Dec. 7, 2001 — At a press conference on Capitol Hill this morning, Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and AOPA member Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) unveiled a bill to legislate the historic agreement that would continue the operation of Meigs Field for another 25 years. Illinois Governor George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley reached the deal on Wednesday night. AOPA President Phil Boyer joined the senators at the podium. While the senators' speeches largely focused on the national benefits that will come with O'Hare expansion and moving forward on building an airport at Peotone, Senator Durbin asked Boyer to explain the benefits that will come with the continued operation of Meigs Field, which is slated to close February 2002 if not included in federal legislation.
"We must memorialize this agreement and codify it in federal legislation," Boyer said. "Meigs serves as an important 'reliever' for business and general aviation aircraft to congested Midway and O'Hare Airports." Boyer stated that its closure would affect air traffic in the entire Chicago region and throughout the United States. He emphasized that reliever airports are an essential part of the overall national system and critical to reducing congestion at the major hub airports. He also added that there are five general aviation flights for every commercial flight that goes through O'Hare.
The decision to codify the agreement stems from the desire to prevent Chicago-area airports from becoming a constant political football between state and local officials. "We've been waiting 30 years for the stars and the moon to align and the governor and mayor to reach an agreement on this," said Senator Durbin. "We need to make sure that this compromise that was put together stays together."
Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) is expected to offer companion legislation in the House of Representatives next week. Phil Boyer pledged to Senators Durbin, Grassley, and Harkin, and to Congressman Lipinski, to put the full force of AOPA's membership behind the legislation if need be.
After the press conference, Boyer thanked Senator Durbin for his leadership on seeing the deal. "We would not be here today without Dick Durbin's leadership and that of Bill Lipinski. Chicago and GA pilots everywhere are in their debt for Meigs."
AOPA has waged a six-year battle to save Meigs. The association has participated in lawsuits, lobbied both the Illinois legislature and Congress, produced television commercials and newspaper ads to gain legislative and public support for the airport, and mounted an extensive behind-the-scenes effort.
AOPA Attends Closed-Door Staff Meeting to Discuss Future of GA Relief Bill
Dec. 6, 2001 — AOPA Legislative Affairs attended a closed-door meeting today on the future of general aviation relief legislation hosted by the staff of senator, and AOPA member, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. The meeting also included senior staff members from the offices of Senators Tom Harkin, Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, John McCain, Byron Dorgan, and Congressman John Mica, as well as representatives of the travel industry.
The meeting focused on the various bills pending in the Senate that would provide some form of relief to GA businesses, and how those bills might be combined into one piece of legislation. Over 40 senators have cosponsored one of the assorted pieces of legislation that would provide economic relief to GA business. Supporters are trying to find a way to get the senators to all agree on one bill. The difficulty lies in determining which businesses in the general aviation and travel industry should be covered, and whether they should receive direct loans, loan guarantees, or a combination of both.
As the meeting closed, Senator Inhofe's staff indicated they would attempt to draft a bill that would combine elements of all the relief bills currently pending and circulate it to those in attendance for input. AOPA pledged to fully participate in any effort to bring economic relief to those GA businesses that have suffered as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Governor Ryan Says 25-Year Deal on Meigs May Be Reached
No Agreement Yet From Mayor Daley
Update: Dec. 4, 2001, 11:52:51 AM ET — Illinois Governor George H. Ryan is making another run at keeping Meigs Field open for 25 years. After an unsuccessful attempt last Thursday, the governor has put forth a plan today and is asking the U.S. Congress to pass legislation enacting the agreement into law. The package keeps Meigs Field open while expanding commercial service at O'Hare and expediting the process for a third Chicago-area airport at Peotone, according to a press release from the governor's press office. "This may finally be the breakthrough we have all been working toward," President Phil Boyer said. "Governor Ryan has shown strong leadership in obtaining a long-term commitment to Meigs Field." According to congressional sources, the governor's Chicago Regional Airport Plan cannot be put into legislation until agreed to by Mayor Daley's office.
Senate Approves Transportation Appropriations; Bill to Be Signed by President
AOPA-Backed GA Provisions Included
Dec. 4, 2001 — The Senate has approved transportation appropriations legislation (H.R. 2299), by a vote of 97-2, which will provide some $13.3 billion to the FAA for the 2002 fiscal year. The bill, passed by the House of Representatives on November 30, will now go to the President for signature. The legislation includes many provisions that AOPA pushed for, including funding for improving the notam distribution system and flight service station computers.
The $13.3 billion budget, which would be a 5.7 percent above this year's budget, includes FAA funding consistent with the levels established under the AIR-21 legislation signed into law of April 2000 to unlock the aviation trust fund. AOPA worked with conferees on the Transportation Appropriations bill to include a number of GA-related provisions, such as the requirement that the FAA disseminate the database of airport diagrams to manufacturers at no cost as a first step in reducing runway incursions and enhancing aviation safety; an increase in funding for research on general aviation unleaded fuels; and modernization of the notams platform. View the provisions requested by AOPA included in the agreed-upon legislation. A provision stating that area reliever and general aviation airports like Meigs Field must be preserved and utilized as part of a plan to solve congestion at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport was dropped during conference, fallout from the inability of the Illinois governor's office and the Chicago mayor's office to come to a resolution on airports in the Chicago area.
Details of the conference report:
|FAA ($ in millions)||FY00||FY01||Administration
|Facilities & Equipment||$2,075||$2.651||$2,914||$2,914||$2,914||$2,914|
See also the conference report.
Transportation Appropriations to be Approved This Morning
Nov. 30, 2001 — House-Senate transportation appropriations conferees reached a compromise last night on legislation (H.R. 2299), which will provide FAA funding for the 2002 fiscal year. AOPA legislative staff monitored the conference last night.
The bill has been sent to the House floor and is expected to be adopted this morning; view a summary of the conference report. The full text of the conference report is not yet available online. AOPA will post the GA-related provisions of the Transportation appropriations bill as they become available.
Transportation Appropriations Bill Almost Ready to Go
AOPA Monitors Conference for GA-Related Provisions
Nov. 29, 2001 — House-Senate transportation appropriations conferees are near a compromise on the House- and Senate-passed versions of H.R. 2299 that will provide FAA funding for the 2002 fiscal year. Conferees are scheduled to meet at 6:30 tonight.
Both the House and Senate bills include FAA funding consistent with the levels established under the AIR-21 legislation signed into law of April 2000 to unlock the aviation trust fund, as well as a number of AOPA recommendations such as the requirement that FAA disseminate the database of airport diagrams to manufacturers at no cost as a first step in reducing runway incursions and enhancing aviation safety. The Senate-passed bill includes an AOPA-backed amendment that states area reliever and general aviation airports like Meigs Field must be preserved and utilized as part of a plan to solve congestion at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport; as well as a provision for increasing funding for research on general aviation unleaded fuels. The House-passed bill includes the AOPA recommendation for modernization of the notam distribution system. AOPA legislative affairs will continue to monitor the developments of the conference committee.
The House-Senate conference, which was originally scheduled to begin early September, was delayed after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Congress instead has passed continuing resolutions that extended the current-year funding levels for agencies whose regular appropriation had not been enacted. The current continuing resolution will be in effect until December 7.
Mica Introduces General Aviation Relief Bill
AOPA Works to Ensure Help for All GA Businesses
Nov. 28, 2001 — Last night, House aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) introduced the General Aviation Industry Reparations Act of 2001 (H.R. 3347) to provide economic relief to those general aviation businesses that received substantial economic injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11. The bill was drafted as a result of a hearing held earlier this year by Chairman Mica, at which AOPA President Phil Boyer testified that relief for general aviation small businesses was desperately needed. AOPA legislative staff worked closely with Mica's staff to assure that all segments of general aviation businesses are eligible for help.
H.R. 3347 provides $2.5 billion in direct grants and $5 billion in federal loan guarantees to those in the general aviation industry who have suffered severe economic injury as a result of the terrorist attacks. In addition, it gives the President the power to give priority for compensation to a general aviation business based on the length of time that business has been unable to operate since September 11.
Chairman Mica's bill is similar to the General Aviation Small Business Relief Act (H.R. 3007) that Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced with the help of AOPA. Congressman Shuster is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 3347. In urging support for the bill, Mr. Shuster said, "It is time to address the financial crisis facing the general aviation industry." (See AOPA's issue brief for details on the various GA relief bills now pending before Congress.)
AOPA Continues Efforts to Change "Warbird" Legislation
Nov. 27, 2001 — AOPA's legislative affairs staff is continuing to work with House-Senate conferees to remove the so-called "Warbird Provision" from the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1438/H.R. 2586). That provision, if enacted, could result in the destruction of vintage military aircraft — destroying an important part of our nation's aviation history.
According to congressional sources, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has been the lead on this provision. AOPA contacted Senator Levin's defense aide who said it was not Senator Levin's intent to capture warbirds in this clause. Other Senate staffers have said they are hoping to have the provision completely stricken. AOPA will continue to work with the conferees on removing the provision.
In a letter to House-Senate conferees sent on October 11, AOPA President Phil Boyer requested the deletion of Section 1062 that authorizes the secretary of Defense to require demilitarization of significant military equipment, including aircraft formerly owned by the Department of the Defense. Last year, AOPA successfully worked toward deleting similar legislation.
House Armed Services Chairman and Defense Authorization Conferee Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) has vowed to save the warbirds. In response to Boyer's appeal, he responded by letter saying that "[he] will do everything [he] can to have it stripped-out again." Stump called the provision included in this year's bill "even worse than last year's, with language so broad as to jeopardize the private ownership of literally any and all military surplus equipment."
The House-Senate conference on the National Defense Authorization Act began on October 31. Conferees hope to wrap up the competing versions of their bills before Congress adjourns in December.
Aviation Security Legislation Passes Congress
Onerous GA Requirement Removed
Nov. 16, 2001, 6:23:22 PM ET — Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate approved aviation security legislation this afternoon without a security mandate for small general aviation aircraft. AOPA legislative affairs staff worked over the last week with the House and Senate conferees on a compromise to a harmful amendment requiring a security program for general aviation aircraft sponsored by Sen. Kohl that was included in the Senate version of the legislation. The compromise requires the newly appointed under secretary for Transportation Security to report to Congress on airspace and other security measures that can be deployed, as necessary, to improve general aviation security.
AOPA President Phil Boyer responded by saying, "This is not a mandate for change as the original bill called for, but a study and report."
The bill, S. 1447, on its way to the President for signature, also includes language inserted by Rep. Don Young. Young, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met with AOPA during the post-September 11 period, and his positive clause addresses remaining GA airspace restrictions. Upon the request of an aircraft operator, the secretary of Transportation must either lift the restriction or reimpose it by public procedure within 30 days.
Finally, addressing concerns about the terrorists who received flight training for large transport category aircraft, the bill requires aliens or other individuals specified by the secretary of Transportation to undergo a background check before receiving training, including training in a simulator, for aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or more.
Aviation Security Conferees Reach an Agreement
Nov. 16, 2001 — House-Senate aviation security conferees reached an agreement last night, and both chambers will vote on the legislation today, according to congressional sources. AOPA legislative affairs staff has been working with the House and Senate conferees on a compromise to a harmful GA amendment that was included in the Senate version of the legislation. The amendment required the FAA to implement a security program for all aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less. Since the conference report has not yet been filed, AOPA legislative affairs does not have confirmation of the compromise language, but AOPA expects general aviation aircraft will be exempt from the new security program.
Also as part of the compromise, five airports of varying sizes that are a part of the pilot programs set up by the Department of Transportation (DOT) can request to use screeners other than federal workers within the initial two-year period. The legislation also creates the Transportation Security Administration in the DOT, which will immediately oversee all of airport security.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) predicted the bill would pass both the House and the Senate by Friday evening, and it will then be sent to the President. The President has said he will sign the measure, according to the Congressional Quarterly.
Aviation Security Agreement Expected Tonight
Nov. 15, 2001 — A House/Senate conference committee is expected to reach a final agreement tonight on legislation to overhaul the nation's aviation security system. AOPA legislative affairs has worked closely with House and Senate staff to reach a compromise on an onerous amendment that would adversely affect general aviation. While confirmation of final language has not been obtained, the compromise is expected to exempt Part 91 general aviation operations from immediate security measures. A vote could occur as early as tonight or as late as tomorrow morning. AOPA will continue to monitor the progress of the conference committee and will announce an agreement when it is reached.
Aviation Security Conferees Hoping to Reach Agreement This Week
Nov. 14, 2001 — House-Senate conferees on aviation security legislation convened their second conference meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and negotiators said they hoped to reach agreement by Thursday so a bill will reach the President before the Thanksgiving recess. Conferees have postponed a meeting scheduled for this afternoon so that they and their aides can continue to work out remaining items.
AOPA legislative affairs staff continues to work with the House and Senate conferees on a compromise to Senator Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) harmful amendment to GA that exists in the Senate version of the legislation. The amendment would force the FAA to implement a security program for all aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less.
The key negotiating point for conferees is the employment status of baggage screeners — whether they should be government employees or if the government should contract out to private security firms, or both.
Aviation Security Conferees Aim for Quick Resolution
Conferee Wants to Remove Harmful GA Amendment
Nov. 8, 2001 — House-Senate conferees on aviation security met for the first time yesterday afternoon and "indicated willingness to compromise to send a bill to the President before Thanksgiving," Congress Daily reports.
Staff of conferee and AOPA member Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) indicated that the congressman opposes Senator Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) amendment, which was included in the Senate version of the aviation security legislation (S. 1447), and he plans to work on having it removed from the final bill. The amendment would force the FAA to implement a security program for aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less.
Among the issues on which the conferees must reach a compromise are the status of airport security workers (federal vs. private screeners) and the decision of which department, Transportation or Justice, will be in charge of airport security. The conferees' staff will meet throughout the weekend to come up with a draft conference report. Another conference meeting is set for November 13.
Aviation Security Negotiations to Start
Nov. 7, 2001 — The House and Senate have named their conferees to negotiate aviation security legislation, and their first meeting on the legislation will be held today at 4 p.m. in the Capitol.
After learning that AOPA member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) was named to the conference committee, AOPA legislative affairs staff immediately contacted the congressman's office to discuss Senator Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) harmful amendment to GA that exists in the Senate version of the legislation. Congressman Ehlers' staff indicated that he opposes the Kohl amendment and plans to work on having it removed from the final bill. All of the House aviation security conferees were sent a letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer urging that Senator Kohl's amendment be deleted from the bill. The amendment would force the FAA to implement a security program for aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less. Chairman Young has also spoken against this amendment.
Negotiating on behalf of the House GOP will be Chairman Young, transportation aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (Fla.), AOPA member Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.), and Tom Petri (Wis.).
Minority Leader Gephardt named to the conference committee Transportation Committee ranking Democrat James Oberstar (Minn.), transportation aviation subcommittee ranking Democrat William Lipinski (Ill.), and Peter DeFazio (Ore.).
Senate Democratic conferees are Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Ernest F. Hollings (S.C.), also the conference chairman; subcommittee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.); Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii); John F. Kerry (Mass.); John B. Breaux (La.); Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.); and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
Republican Senate conferees are Commerce ranking Republican John McCain (Ariz.), subcommittee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas); Minority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.); Ted Stevens (Alaska); Conrad Burns (Mont.), and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).
Bill to "Tighten" Aviation Training Introduced
Sept. 26, 2001 — Among the aviation security bills that have been recently introduced in Congress is one aimed at aviation training. AOPA President Phil Boyer sent a letter today to Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) who has introduced legislation (H.R. 2932) to require potential flight students to pay for a criminal background check before taking lessons. Boyer wrote that AOPA "would be pleased to work with you on proposals to enhance the procedures of the government agencies that allowed terrorists to enter the country and enroll in flight training," but he also warned that the legislation as written would penalize "an entire industry that has no direct responsibility for who is allowed to enter the country...the financial burden of a background check will cause many of those with an interest in learning to fly to simply not try at all."
Sept. 21, 2001 — Other aviation-related legislative activity has resumed on Capitol Hill. AOPA has learned the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1155) has revived last year's proposal — defeated by AOPA — that could ground the nation's warbirds. The provision (Section 2573) authorizes the secretary of Defense to require demilitarization of significant military equipment, including aircraft, formerly owned by the Department of Defense. In a letter to the Senate, AOPA President Phil Boyer requested the provision's deletion, saying, "Our members are concerned because many of these aircraft have been carefully preserved over the years and are now flown as part of the general aviation fleet. In addition, the section also stipulates under some circumstances the owners of significant military equipment be compelled to pay for the demilitarization of their own property, even though it was legally sold to them in that condition."
Additional legislative proposals are starting to be developed by individual members. For example, Representatives Crenshaw (Fla.) and Castle (Del.) are introducing legislation requiring background checks on flight students, with the cost of the check to be assumed by prospective students. And according to the Manchester Union Leader, members of the New Hampshire delegation are considering legislation to allow airline pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit.
Congress Passes $40 Billion Emergency Spending Legislation
Sept. 14, 2001 — Congress has passed a $40 billion emergency spending bill to address the short-term implications of Tuesday's attacks and will shortly adjourn with no votes expected until the middle of next week. The aviation component of the $40 billion spending package will be used for additional sky marshals and airport security equipment. Both the House Transportation and Senate Commerce committees will hold airport security hearings on September 20. Among the issues confronting Congress will be reconciling a growing desire to at least partially federalize airport security screeners with the enormous cost implications of such actions.
Aviation Leaders Discuss Ideas to Improve Air Travel Security
Sept. 13, 2001 — After the terrorist air assault on America on Tuesday, members of Congress are calling for heightened airport security, which may include a military presence at national airports.
According to the Congressional Quarterly, one measure being considered by Congress is to introduce legislation to expand the federal air marshal program, which was enacted in 1985 after TWA Flight 847 was hijacked.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member on the Senate commerce aviation subcommittee, said she plans to introduce legislation authorizing the FAA to levy a $1 per passenger tax on all flight legs to pay for an expansion of the air marshal program. The legislation would allow the FAA to determine where and when the marshals would be deployed. In the last Congress, Senator Hutchison was the key author of Airport Security Improvement legislation, which became law on November 22, 2000.
Representative John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House transportation and infrastructure aviation subcommittee, is concerned that the Transportation department hasn't "made enough public comment" to reassure airline passengers that security measures will be increased. Rep. Mica said the House Transportation Committee will also be reviewing air marshal legislation, and on September 20, the committee will hold a hearing on airport security.
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) will also hold a hearing September 20 to look at ways to improve security procedures.
Senate commerce aviation subcommittee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is concerned about the lack of trained airport personnel. "The average person that checks bags lasts three months on the job and is paid minimum wage," Rockefeller said.
House and Senate appropriators will introduce today an Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that will include funding for increased airport security measures.
Bush Budget Projections Could Leave AIR-21 Vulnerable
Aug. 22, 2001 — The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its midyear budget projections today, which state that the surplus is $123 billion less than the $284 billion surplus OMB projected in April.
This plummeting surplus projection comes at a time when appropriations bills, such as those funding the FAA, will continue to be debated next month when Congress returns. The lower surplus will put pressure on all parts of the budget.
The Senate approved the transportation appropriations bill on August 1, which included a number of AOPA recommendations to benefit GA. The final bill will be developed in a House-Senate conference in early September. However, it is unclear what will happen to aviation spending should funding for other priorities, such as education and defense, fall short of the amounts necessary to gaining the support of congressional majorities. In addition, the much-debated, and still unresolved, Mexican trucks safety issue on the transportation bill may prevent the entire transportation funding bill from being passed. If this happens, there is the threat that the transportation appropriations bill will be grouped with other spending bills into a last-minute "omnibus appropriations bill," which could leave the AIR-21 funding levels vulnerable to a last-minute budget "deal." AOPA will closely monitor the development of the FAA's funding bill for next year to ensure the AIR-21 agreement continues to be fully implemented. For more information on the aviation budget process, see AOPA's issue brief.
Amendment to Save Meigs Field Has Passed the Senate
Aug. 2, 2001 — The Senate passed last night the Department of Transportation FY2002 appropriations bill that includes an amendment that states area reliever and general aviation airports like Meigs Field must be preserved and utilized as part of a plan to solve congestion at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport. On July 26, AOPA sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking for support of this amendment, sponsored by Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.). The bill includes FAA funding consistent with the levels established under the AIR-21 legislation signed into law of April 2000 to unlock the aviation trust fund, as well as a number of AOPA recommendations such as full funding of the FSS modernization program; that FAA disseminate the database of airport diagrams to manufacturers at no cost; funding and specific instructions to the FAA to accelerate programs making satellite navigation systems more useful to general aviation pilots; and an increase in funding for research into general aviation unleaded fuels. To learn more about the FAA funding process, see AOPA's issue brief.
July 31, 2001 — The administration will release this week the State Department's report on its investigation of the U.S.-Peru drug interdiction program and the April 20 incident in which a civilian aircraft was shot down in Peru by a Peruvian Air Force fighter jet, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The State Department inquiry, headed by Rand Beers, "characterizes the program as having limited U.S. oversight and having evolved over the years into lax adherence to procedures by both the United States and Peru," said sources familiar with the report. The Senate Committee on Intelligence will soon release its own report on its investigation of the Peru incident and the interdiction program, which, according to sources familiar with the draft version, reaches similar conclusions to the State Department's report. As AOPA reported last week, the House voted to withhold $65 million in aid for the Peru portion of the Andean Counterdrug Initiative unless the State Department's report is submitted to Congress and the President, State Department, and CIA certify that the interdiction program will include safeguards to prevent the occurrence of any similar incident.
After receiving the State Department's report last month, the administration hired an outside expert, former U.S. ambassador to Colombia Morris D. Bushby, "to study the report and conduct a broad review of the entire policy." Bushby's review is not yet completed.
After the April 20 incident, AOPA President Phil Boyer was invited to submit testimony for the record on May 1 for the House criminal justice, drug policy, and human resources subcommittee hearing on U.S. Drug Interdiction Efforts in South America. Boyer submitted testimony condemning the use of deadly force against civilian aircraft. While AOPA supports efforts to fight drug smuggling, we believe the use of deadly force against aircraft is fundamentally wrong and a violation of international law intended to protect civilian pilots and their passengers.
[See also The Washington Post article and "Pilot Counsel: Peruvian shoot-down" (August Pilot).]
Shootdown Amendment Added to Appropriations Bill
July 25, 2001 — Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) added an amendment yesterday to the Foreign Operations FY02 Appropriations bill (H.R. 2506), cutting $65 million from the bill's $676 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (the expected amount of aid to Peru) unless the secretary of State submits to Congress a full report on the Peru shootdown incident of April 20, 2001. The provision also stipulates that the secretary of State, Defense secretary, and director of Central Intelligence certify to Congress that the force-down program will include safeguards to prevent the occurrence of any similar incident.
Over the past 15 years, AOPA has opposed proposed changes in policy authorizing the shootdown or force-down of civil aircraft here and abroad. After the April 20 incident, AOPA President Phil Boyer was invited to submit testimony for the record on May 1 for the House criminal justice, drug policy, and human resources subcommittee hearing on U.S. Drug Interdiction Efforts in South America. Boyer submitted testimony condemning the use of deadly force against civilian aircraft. [See also AOPA's issue brief.]
July 25, 2001 — Responding to a proposed amendment to the Senate Commerce-Justice-State (C-J-S) Appropriations bill (S. 1215) that would prohibit the Department of Commerce from issuing licenses for aerial fish spotters to operate, AOPA sent a letter on Monday requesting senators resist adding this provision to the bill. AOPA member James Hansen, chairman of the House Resources Committee, sent a letter to C-J-S subcommittee House Chairman Frank Wolf on July 20 asking him to oppose any efforts to add such language to any appropriations bill being considered in the Senate.
The proposed amendment would continue a prohibition against use of aircraft in Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing that was added behind closed doors to the FY2001 version of the bill. The amendment's intent is to reduce competition among fishery participants.
AOPA, along with some environmental and conservation groups, believes that spotter aircraft play a crucial environmental role by directing fisherman away from undersized tuna. "AOPA believes this provision sets a precedent for more intrusive legislative restrictions on the uses of general aviation aircraft," wrote Boyer. [See also AOPA's letter and Rep. Hansen's letter.]
White House, Nav Canada Discuss Privatization
July 18, 2001 — White House staff members met with Nav Canada President John Crichton on May 29 to discuss the Nav Canada model of a privatized ATC system, according to a recent story in Aviation Daily. The Bush budget plan, submitted in February, contains language committing the administration to working with Congress and the aviation community "to develop a plan of action for improving the nation's aviation record, and in particular to examine the success that various nations, such as Canada, have experienced with individual air traffic control systems owned and operated by private companies." Crichton has repeatedly stated that he believes that the Nav Canada model would work equally well in the United States. AOPA, meanwhile, remains strongly against privatization.
Reform Bill Dies; No Ban on Soft Money
July 18, 2001 — The House campaign finance reform bill, which could level the playing field between GA and the airlines, failed last Thursday when the members couldn't agree on the procedural rules for considering this issue. For now the airlines can continue to donate millions of unregulated dollars to political candidates and parties. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the air transport sector provided over $10 million in soft money contributions to political parties in the 2000 election cycle. The House bill, authored by Representatives Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), is now stalled in the House Rules Committee, and its supporters are hoping to bring it back before year's end. "Shays-Meehan" resembles the Senate-passed bill, sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), aimed at restricting the unregulated special-interest contributions to political parties. Both bills ban soft money donations from unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals to political parties.
Agreement Reached on Backcountry Airstrips
July 12, 2001 — Facing the possibility that an AOPA-supported prohibition against the closure of backcountry airstrips would be extended by Congress until October 2002, an agreement has been reached between Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and the departments of Agriculture and Interior to develop a national policy governing backcountry airstrips on federal lands. The establishment of such a national policy is a long-sought goal of AOPA. The Bush administration has committed itself to a process that will include periods of public notice, comment, and participation by the states. To highlight the importance of the agreement, Senator Crapo and Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) took to the Senate floor and each spoke out on the necessity of this policy. Afterward, Senator Crapo proceeded to read letters from these agencies stating their agreement.
Senate Committee Completes Action on FAA Funding
July 12, 2001 — The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed action on FAA funding for the upcoming fiscal year. The legislation will fund the FAA at $13.3 billion, a level consistent with last year's AIR-21 agreement unlocking the aviation trust fund, and includes a number of AOPA recommendations. The bill provides AOPA-supported levels of funding for FSS modernization, funding and specific instructions to the FAA to accelerate programs making satellite navigation systems more useful to general aviation pilots, as well as increases funding for research into general aviation unleaded fuels. It is expected the Senate will consider the bill next week. For more information, see AOPA's updated aviation budget issue brief.
Democrats Named to Senate Committees
July 11, 2001 — On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) handed out a number of new committee assignments to Democrats as part of the new Senate organizing resolution. After the switch of Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.), Democrats were given one additional seat on each committee, except the Senate Ethics Committee, to reflect their new majority status. Freshman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will serve on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over aviation issues, and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) will serve on the Appropriations Committee.
House Members Question Technology Approach
June 27, 2001 — AOPA President Phil Boyer testified Tuesday at a House aviation subcommittee hearing focusing on runway incursions. Boyer told the subcommittee, "We're not against using technology, but by simply using better paint for runway and taxiway lines and using better signage would go a long way towards reducing runway incursions." AOPA member Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) was particularly tough on technology advocate DOT Inspector General Ken Mead. "When it comes to incursions, the personal responsibility issue is oftentimes pushed aside," Rep. Hayes said. "It all comes back to basic training and education." Other House aviation subcommittee members were also skeptical about the big-bang approach that technology is the cure-all for runway incursions, including pilot Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Ranking Member William Lipinski (D-Ill.), and Rep. John Baldacci (D-Maine). [See also AOPA President Phil Boyer's written testimony.]
House Passes Transportation Appropriations Bill
June 27, 2001 — Also on Tuesday the House of Representatives approved an FY2002 funding bill for the FAA that includes a number of recommendations made by AOPA. Overall the legislation would provide the FAA with $13.3 billion — $690 million (5 percent) over the fiscal year 2001 enacted and consistent with the funding levels required by the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21). A number of AOPA recommendations were also adopted, including: full funding of the FSS modernization program, that the FAA disseminate the database of airport diagrams to manufacturers at no cost, that the notams platform be modernized and, despite the change in administration, language still be included prohibiting the FAA from funding user-fee studies. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation in early July.
House Appropriations Secures AOPA-Supported Bill Language
June 21, 2001 — The House Appropriations Committee approved on Wednesday the annual funding bill for the Department of Transportation for the 2002 fiscal year that begins on October 1. The committee's legislation recommends $13.3 billion for the FAA, which is consistent with the levels established under the AIR-21 legislation signed into law in April 2000 to unlock the aviation trust fund.
The FY2002 transportation appropriations bill includes language and funding levels requested by AOPA, such as a provision to retain the language prohibiting funding of work on unauthorized user fees. Programs key to general aviation that are currently set to received funding include OASIS ($33.9 million), the program designed to modernize flight service stations; Safe Flight 21 ($35 million), a program that will evaluate several GPS-based solutions to help reduce controlled flight into terrain accidents, runway incursions, and midair collisions, which will significantly improve the dissemination of hazardous weather information to pilots in flight; Wide Area Augmentation System, WAAS ($76 million), and the Local Area Augmentation System, LAAS ($42.45 million), whose stations enhance the accuracy of the current GPS signals; and notices to airmen, notams ($1 million), which disseminates safety information regarding changing conditions at airports around the country.
This bill is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives the week of June 25. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up this transportation bill on July 12. To learn more about the FAA funding process, see AOPA's "Aviation Budget Process" issue brief.
AOPA Hosts Annual Capitol Hill "Pilot Town Meeting"
June 12, 2001 — AOPA President Phil Boyer hosted the annual "Pilot Town Meeting" on Capitol Hill today. More than 20 senators, congressmen, and staff attended the annual non-political event, including Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Ted Stevens and House Resources Committee Chairman James Hansen.
"I know it's not easy for members of Congress to attend AOPA's Pilot Town Meetings with their busy schedules, which is why I like to have this special meeting for them," said Boyer. "It gives key decision-makers in Congress the opportunity to see the latest advances in navigation technology that have been brought to general aviation."
The Congressional Pilot Town Meeting provided an opportunity for members of Congress to interact with their fellow colleagues. The meeting focused on the new technology that has been brought to the general aviation cockpit with the latest in electronic chart depiction (including approach charts) and collision avoidance.
Perhaps the most popular display at the meeting was the flight simulator. Under the guidance of an AOPA staffer, several members of Congress and staff practiced an ILS approach to Runway 23 at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, using the Elite PCATD personal flight simulator with control wheel, rudder pedals, and avionics package.
A new display at this year's meeting was the Air Safety Foundation's Runway Safety Program, an online training tool that teaches pilots about operations at busy airports. The interactive training course is available free to all pilots at www.aopa.org/asf/online_courses/runway_safety/.
Also demonstrated were the Garmin GNS 530 GPS/Nav/Comm/ILS with color moving map and the handheld Garmin 295 Color VFR GPS and the UPS Aviation Technologies MX20 multifunction display, set up to simulate the Capstone program now being tested in Alaska.
AOPA's Capitol Hill Pilot Town Meeting is an annual event in Washington, D.C.
AOPA Member Faces Potentially Difficult Reelection
June 6, 2001 — The Iowa Legislative Services Bureau has just released its second proposal for reapportioning congressional seats in Iowa, and fellow pilot and AOPA member Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) would be placed in a largely new and certainly more difficult district from which to seek reelection. The Iowa Legislature will consider this proposal later this month. Reapportionment occurs in all states after every census in an attempt to balance out the population represented by each House member. AOPA will closely follow the fortunes of each member, and particularly pilot members, as the process unfolds.
June 6, 2001 — Pilot Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was recognized as the Senate majority leader today for the first time. Senator Daschle became majority leader as a result of Vermont Senator James Jeffords' decision to become an Independent. A major issue still being negotiated by Senator Daschle and now Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is the reorganization of the Senate committees. Currently the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over aviation issues, contains seven Democrats and seven Republicans. Republicans have suggested increasing the size of the committees to create a one-vote Democratic majority. However, according to congressional aides, incoming Commerce Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is pushing to reduce the size of his committee by bumping a Republican. The Republican with the least seniority on the Commerce Committee is Senator George Allen of Virginia.
Democrats Regain Control of the Senate
McCain Out as Chairman
Sen. Jim Jeffords
Sen. Ernest Hollings
Sen. Tom Daschle
May 24, 2001 — Vermont's Senator Jim Jeffords announced today that he is leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent. This decision gives Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since 1994. Pilot Tom Daschle of South Dakota is now the majority leader of the Senate. John McCain of Arizona must relinquish the chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee to user-fee opponent Ernest Hollings of South Carolina. And AOPA member Ted Stevens of Alaska will no longer chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Jeffords' switch will profoundly affect the Bush administration's legislative agenda as Democrats now control the Senate floor and determine what bills will be given hearings and votes in committee. The change in leadership will also alter the dynamics, both positively and negatively, of AOPA's legislative initiatives.
For example, the new chairman of the Commerce Committee, Senator Hollings, is far less disposed toward funding air traffic control through a system of user fees. But Senator Mike Crapo's AOPA- supported Backcountry Landing Strip Access Act has been referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the transfer of authority in this committee from bill cosponsor Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) may make it more difficult for Sen. Crapo to get the legislation passed. Last year Sen. Crapo, with help from Senators Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), attached a provision to the Interior Appropriations Conference Report prohibiting federal funds from being used to close any airstrips on federal lands. This provision expires October 1, and because of the change in control, Senator Burns will no longer chair the interior appropriations subcommittee.
Another general aviation concern that may be affected by Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party is aerial fish spotting. Last year, a provision was included in the Commerce, State, and Justice Appropriations Act prohibiting the use of Department of Commerce funds for the issuance or renewal of harpoon category permits for aircraft involved in Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing. This shift in power also makes the new Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings the next in line for chairman of the commerce, state, and justice appropriations subcommittee, and it is likely he will support continuation of Senator Kerry's ban on aerial fish spotting.
AOPA will continue to follow this story and its ramifications for general aviation.
Runway Legislation Mark-up Postponed
May 24, 2001 — One of the early results of Senator Jim Jeffords' expected announcement was the cancellation of Thursday's Senate Commerce Committee mark-up of legislation to grant airlines limited exemption from anti-trust laws with regard to scheduling, as well as a proposal for streamlining environmental regulations for building runways at the nation's largest airports and allowing the DOT secretary to determine the compensation rate for the proposed FAA chief operating officer. Discussions were also under way on proposed amendments that would go far beyond environmental streamlining to actually rolling back certain environmental regulations pertaining to runway construction.
AOPA Pushes for Repeal of Shootdown Law
May 16, 2001 — AOPA is urging Congress to repeal the law involved in the shootdown of an American missionary aircraft in Peru. In a letter to all members of the House, AOPA President Phil Boyer asked for support of House Bill 1818, a bill introduced by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a pilot and AOPA member. That bill would eliminate the authority of employees and agents of the U.S. government in assisting foreign countries in interdiction of aircraft suspected of drug-related operations.
McCain Writes Essay Supporting ATC Privatization
May 9, 2001 — Arizona Senator John McCain is calling once again for a privatized air traffic control corporation funded by user fees. In an essay in Wednesday's The Hill newspaper dedicated to transportation issues, Senator McCain wrote that the current ATC system "has become a constraint on the growth of aviation...It may be that ATC can best be provided by a corporate entity that is outside the normal government structure and funded directly by a bondable stream of fees and charges for ATC services." He also stated that he supports an exemption for "recreational general aviation" from such fees and charges. Senator McCain intends to schedule a hearing in the Commerce Committee to explore this issue. McCain's views were not supported by other key aviation leaders who were more in sync with AOPA's views of modernization of the ATC system and the need for more runways. To read all the essays, visit www.hillnews.com.
Vote on Budget Expected This Week
May 9, 2001 — The House and Senate are expected this week to approve a budget resolution for the next fiscal year that, while non-binding, serves as the blueprint for tax and spending legislation that will be developed between now and the start of the fiscal year on October 1. The House vote on the $1.97 trillion budget outline was delayed last week after it was found that some pages were missing from the House-Senate compromise. Under the proposal, aviation funding may still be vulnerable to spending cuts in order to offset higher congressional and administration priorities.
The congressional spending package calls for a $1.35 trillion federal income tax cut over 11 years and a 4 percent increase in discretionary spending in the 2002 budget. The resolution recommends $65 billion for transportation funding, roughly the amount proposed by the Bush administration. However, the discretionary spending increase, 4 percent, is significantly below the rate of such growth over the past few years. It is unclear what will happen to aviation spending should funding for other priorities, such as education and defense, fall short of the amounts necessary to gaining the support of congressional majorities. AOPA will continue to closely monitor the situation as Congress begins writing the annual funding bills.
AOPA Weighs In On Peru Shootdown
May 2, 2001 — AOPA President Phil Boyer was invited to submit testimony for the record for Tuesday's House criminal justice, drug policy, and human resources subcommittee hearing on U.S. Drug Interdiction Efforts in South America. Boyer submitted testimony condemning the use of deadly force against civilian aircraft.
"This tragic situation was predicted by our organization in 1994 when we opposed the U.S. plan to furnish radar tracking and targeting information to South American governments to be used to intercept and shoot down drug smugglers," Boyer stated in his prepared testimony. As part of the testimony, Boyer included an AOPA letter to the U.S. Department of State, sent in June 1994, warning the State Department and members of Congress that it is much too easy to misidentify an innocent civil aircraft.
At the hearing, subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) declared a reevaluation of the current policy is needed, and the Peruvian air force "didn't follow procedures" when they shot down the civilian aircraft. "This policy will never be reinstalled unless President Bush, Secretary Powell, Congress, and ultimately the American people believe that such a tragedy as this is not likely to be repeated because new safeguards have been added." But he questioned whether interdiction efforts should be suspended just because risk is involved.
The issues raised at this hearing were the lack of centralized control in U.S. interdiction policy, whether or not private military contractors should be used to execute U.S. interdiction policy, why it has taken so long to investigate this situation in Peru, and whether there were indications that a tragedy like this might happen.
FAA Study Confirms AOPA's Call for More Runways
Apr. 26, 2001 — The FAA yesterday released its capacity benchmark study of 31 of the nation's busiest airports, disclosing that there are eight airports that experience "significant passenger delays," which then creates a "ripple effect" by causing delays at other airports. The study provided a baseline for future legislation that aims to increase airport capacity and reduce delays. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey told the House transportation aviation subcommittee that new runways at 15 major airports between now and 2010 will add, in some cases, 30-60 percent more capacity.
The agency's capacity benchmark study shows that overall the national aviation system works well on days with good weather. On bad weather days, however, several airports experience significant flight delays.
"Each airport faces a unique set of challenges and should be looked at individually," Garvey said. She further stated that there is not a lot of flexibility in the system since there is not a lot of unused capacity at the top eight airports.
AOPA Fights for Aerial Fish Spotters
Apr. 23, 2001 — Responding to the Department of Commerce's proposal that would place restrictions on aerial fish spotters, AOPA sent a letter last Wednesday to Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans requesting that the administration review its position. The department proposed retaining a provision included in last year's Commerce, State, and Justice Appropriations Act prohibiting the use of Department of Commerce funds for the issuance or renewal of harpoon category permits for aircraft involved in Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing. The provision's intent was to level the playing field among fishery participants.
"Aerial fish spotters have been a safe and beneficial segment of the fishing industry for more than 30 years," AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote. "However, as the numbers of fisherman have increased and the fishing has become more competitive, so has the push to eliminate this element of the industry."
Spotter aircraft play a crucial environmental role by directing fisherman away from undersized tuna.
Bush Administration Proposes to Keep User Fee Options Open
Apr. 10, 2001 — The Bush administration released its budget proposal Monday morning for the fiscal year beginning October 1. The administration has decided to keep its options open with regard to user fees by proposing to delete AOPA-supported language prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to develop user fee plans not previously approved by Congress. The administration also reiterated its desire to "examine the success that various nations, including Canada, have experienced with individual ATC owned and operated by private companies."
The administration's plan, which must be approved by Congress, would fund the FAA at $13.3 billion, the level established by last year's AIR-21 legislation that unlocked the aviation trust fund. In February, AOPA successfully turned back an effort by the Office of Management and Budget to underfund AIR-21. There is concern, as a result of last week's votes in the Senate on the budget, that a combination of the administration's proposed tax cuts and the Senate's proposed increases in discretionary spending could leave the AIR-21 funding levels vulnerable to a last-minute budget "deal."
Backcountry Airstrips Legislation Reintroduced in Congress
Apr. 3, 2001 — The fight to protect backcountry airstrips continues today with the reintroduction of legislation by Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Representatives Butch Otter (R-Idaho) and AOPA member James Hansen (R-Utah) to block efforts by federal agencies to restrict or arbitrarily prohibit general aviation's use of backcountry airstrips by requiring approval from state aviation officials before closing landing sites on federal land. Last year, AOPA supported Senator Crapo who successfully attached an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Conference Report for FY2001, prohibiting federal funds from being used to close any airstrips on lands administered by the Department of the Interior.
Backcountry airstrips serve an essential safety role as emergency landing areas. In mountainous terrain, a pilot experiencing engine trouble has few choices for an emergency landing. In the past, backcountry airstrips have been closed without notice or input from the users and without the approval of state aviation departments.
Campaign Finance Reform: Leveling the Playing Field Between Airlines and GA?
Apr. 3, 2001 — In an historic vote last night, the Senate approved campaign finance reform legislation aimed at restricting the unregulated special-interest contributions to political parties. The legislation, sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), still faces a tough fight in the House of Representatives. As approved by the Senate, "McCain-Feingold" bans soft money donations from unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals to political parties. It also increases hard money donations, or regulated individual contributions to candidates, from $1,000 to $2,000 per year and restricts special-interest broadcast issue ads before primary and general elections.
The full ramifications of these proposed reforms are unclear. For example, the restriction on issue ads will surely face a court challenge. However, if the legislation passes the House, it could level the playing field between general aviation and the airlines that have donated millions of dollars in soft money to political candidates and parties. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the air transport sector provided over $10 million in soft money contributions to political parties in the 2000 election cycle alone.
Backcountry Airstrips Legislation to Be Introduced
Mar. 28, 2001 — The reintroduction of backcountry landing strip access legislation by Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Representative C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-Idaho) will be either late this week or early next week, according to congressional sources. Both AOPA-backed bills block efforts by federal agencies to restrict or arbitrarily prohibit general aviation's use of backcountry airstrips by requiring approval from state aviation officials before closing landing sites on federal land. Last year, AOPA supported Senator Crapo who successfully attached an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Conference Report for FY2001, prohibiting federal funds from being used to close any airstrips on lands administered by the Department of the Interior.
AOPA Defends Mineta
Mar. 28, 2001 — After Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta was criticized in a Wall Street Journal editorial for saying he opposed the creation of a nonprofit, user-fee based corporation to handle air traffic control, AOPA President Phil Boyer sent a letter to the editor in defense of Mineta. In his letter, Boyer wrote that the FAA and the air traffic control system are not solely responsible for the airline delay problem; the airlines also need to take responsibility for the delays. "Those who truly understand the [air traffic control] system say future technological improvements will only increase capacity 5 to 15 percent," Boyer wrote. "Privatization or user fees won't change that."
Bush Budget Still Faces Hurdles; AOPA Still Battling to Preserve AIR-21 Funding
Mar. 22, 2001 — With a slowing economy and plummeting consumer confidence, President Bush's tax and spending plan faces increasing turmoil. While many believe the economy needs a more immediate boost than the Bush plan will provide, other have begun to worry that once expected surpluses will not fully materialize to fund immediate tax relief without real cuts in government spending. In January the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a $281 billion surplus in 2001. However major Wall Street investment houses — usually more bullish than CBO — are now projecting 2001 surpluses 20-35 percent lower than CBO's with economists now also doubtful about CBO's 10-year surplus assumption. In the immediate future such projections make it more difficult for President Bush to sell his tax cut plan without either deficit spending or spending cuts.
The House Budget Committee approved a federal budget plan based largely on the Bush blueprint on Wednesday, voting 23-19 along party lines, to send it to the House floor for debate. In response to concerns about declining surpluses for 2001 Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) stated the CBO numbers assumed a recession within its the 10-year assumptions. President Bush's budget plan will be harder to pass in the 50-50 split Senate. Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), bypassing what he believes will be partisan deadlock in committee, has indicated he will bring a budget resolution directly to the Senate floor the first week in April with a budget resolution similar to the president's budget.
As outlined by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee in a report they issued last week, there is a threat that the Bush tax plan means large cuts to major agencies such as the FAA. And Senator Domenici has stated that even though he supports the Bush budget, the administration's proposed federal spending levels are insufficient. With enormous pressure being placed on agency funding, AOPA will continue its fight to ensure that any budget cuts do not affect AIR-21, legislation passed last April to unlock the aviation trust fund.
Bill to Raise Airline Pilot Retirement Age Approved by Committee
Mar. 16, 2001 — The Senate Commerce Committee approved by a voice vote of 13-8 yesterday a bill that raises the airline pilot retirement age from 60 to 63. The bill will now be sent to the Senate floor for debate.
The original bill, S. 361, introduced by Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), would have increased the mandatory retirement age to 65, but Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) amended it to change the retirement age to 63, with the requirement that those pilots undergo additional medical and cognitive testing. The existing FAA regulation, established more than 40 years ago, was established in an "arbitrary manner," McCain said. "Since then technology has dramatically changed the way we fly, and life expectancies have significantly increased."
A full Senate Commerce Committee hearing on S. 361 was held on March 13, and the pilot retirement issue came up in hearings of the last Congress that addressed pilot shortages.
Law Forum Discusses Privatization
The need for more runways and the modernization of the air traffic control system were among the topics discussed at the American Bar Association's annual Air and Space Law Forum last Thursday. Key members of Congress, the administration, as well as professional staff members of the congressional aviation committees were among the panelists.
Echoing AOPA's view, there was consensus among the congressional panelists that before any radical steps are taken to restructure the ATC system they want to wait and see the results of the AIR-21 agreement. In a panel chaired by Senior Democratic Counsel Sam Whitehorn of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rob Chamberlain, Senator John McCain's (R-Ariz.) senior aviation counsel, stated that he is not sure there is enough congressional support needed to restructure the ATC system. Nancy McFadden, general counsel of the Department of Transportation, stated that there is no "political centrifugal force" to change the structure of the FAA.
Senator Hutchison (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate aviation subcommittee, mentioned that she is working on a bill dealing with the ATC, but her focus right now is on a passenger rights bill, which she will introduce in the next couple of weeks. House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) indicated that he is not interested in moving a passenger bill through his committee. Chairman Mica is more concerned with the modernization of the ATC and infrastructure.
But the issue of privatization was not dismissed. Jack Schenendorf, former chief of staff to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted that if we have another bad summer this year the issue of privatizing the ATC might be revisited.
Bush Budget Already Receiving Scrutiny
Mar. 7, 2001 — Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) has openly criticized the Bush administration's proposed 4 percent budget increase of federal spending as insufficient. Domenici believes that ultimately the FY2002 budget will require funding increases for national security that will probably push overall federal spending level increases to 5 percent. Senator Domenici supports the Bush budget presented to Congress last week, particularly the 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut, but with President Bush not conceding to either reduce the proposed tax cut or to increase the amount of federal spending, enormous pressure will be placed on the funding of agencies such as the FAA. In the past three years, spending has increased at an annual rate of 6.5 percent.
Bush Budget Proposal Submitted to Congress, Privatized Air Traffic Control to be Examined
Feb. 28, 2001 — After outlining his administration's priorities to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, President George W. Bush submitted a 207-page budget plan, titled "A Blueprint for New Beginnings," to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning. The budget plan recommends full funding for aviation at the "firewall" level of $13.3 billion, $725 million above the current funding level. In addition, the plan contains language committing the administration to working with Congress and the aviation community "to develop a plan of action for improving the nation's aviation record, and in particular to examine the success that various nations, such as Canada, have experienced with individual air traffic control systems owned and operated by private companies."
Think-Tank Unveils "Corporatized" ATC System Proposal
Feb. 22, 2001 — At a press conference held today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Reason Public Policy Institute, the think tank advocating a nonprofit corporation to manage air traffic control, unveiled its controversial plan to revamp the air traffic control system with a user-fee funded system similar to Canada's. The primary author, Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, is also the author of previous proposals to charge user fees for basic air traffic control safety services. Poole was joined at the press conference by former Secretary of Transportation James Burnley, former Clinton administration economic advisor Dorothy Robyn, economist Alfred Kahn, and former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond, who all endorsed the report. During his remarks, Mr. Bond produced a statement of support for the proposal from other former FAA officials including former administrators Allan McArtor and David Hinson.
Very little appears to have changed from the draft version of the report, obtained by AOPA last November. Poole continues to advocate abolishing the current aviation fuel tax and moving to a user-fee system. Under his user fee system, "recreational" GA aircraft and turboprops would pay a simple annual fee based on maximum takeoff weight whereas turbojet-powered aircraft would be charged on a per-transaction basis, using the same weight/distance formulas that would be used for air carrier aircraft of all types. For example, a single-engine Cessna 172 would be charged $200 a year, a $50 reduction from his previous draft, while a twin-engine Beech Baron would be assessed $750, a $215 reduction from his previous offer. These annual fees still do not cover the cost of running the flight service station system. Mr. Poole still assumes the general public will be willing to pay those costs in their entirety.
During questioning from reporters, Poole declined to name the specific airlines funding the proposal. Poole cited the privacy wishes of at least one major airline as well as concerns about an overall airline industry agreement not to lobby Congress on behalf of user fees.
AOPA supports the current system of excise taxes on aviation users as the most efficient method of financing the FAA and firmly opposes replacing excise taxes with user fees. AOPA believes there is a fundamental role for air traffic control in air safety and maintaining the current system preserves the link between aviation safety regulation and air traffic control.
President Will Send Top-Line Budget to Hill
Feb. 21, 2001 — President Bush will be addressing a joint session of Congress next Tuesday night where he is expected to lay out the priorities of his administration. The next day he will release a "top-line" budget for fiscal year 2002, focusing on general themes and totals rather than specific line items, to Capitol Hill. This is a standard operating procedure after a new president is inaugurated. While specifics of the FAA budget may not be available until late March, AOPA expects the FAA budget proposal for next year will total approximately $13.3 billion — meeting the requirements of AIR-21. In order to finance its proposed tax cut and spending priorities, the administration must control what it considers lower priority spending, such as FAA. So despite the AIR-21 agreement, AOPA will be closely tracking FAA funding through the entire budget process.
No Cuts to AIR-21
Feb. 12, 2001 — The Wall Street Journal reports today, and AOPA has confirmed, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has decided to restore the FAA budget request for next year to the levels required under the AIR-21 agreement passed last year to unlock the aviation trust fund. The decision comes 11 days after AOPA first reported that OMB was proposing to renege on the AIR-21 funding levels. On February 2, AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote to President Bush, urging him to honor the agreement. Boyer's letter touched off furious industry lobbying on behalf of the FAA, and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta also personally lobbied OMB in support of the AIR-21 funding levels.
Other agencies may not be as lucky as the FAA. According to the Journal, President Bush will propose that total spending on "discretionary government programs — those outside Social Security and Medicare" would rise 4 percent for the next fiscal year. In the past three years, spending was at a 6-percent pace. Among the departments whose budgets are most likely to be slowed or cut are the departments of Energy, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development. Overall, discretionary spending would be limited to about $660 billion next fiscal year, a 3.6-percent increase from the 2001 level and almost $100 billion above the amount mandated in the 1997 balanced budget agreement.
President Bush is expected to submit a budget outline to Congress on Feb. 28.
Mineta Wants Guarantee on Air Money
Feb. 7, 2001 — U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said on Friday that he needed the help of industry and government officials to convince Congress "to strengthen the funding mechanism for aviation."
Speaking at an aviation summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mineta noted that while both the Transportation and Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and the AIR-21 bills are funded by trust funds, highway money for road projects distributed through the highway trust fund is guaranteed, but aviation money for air programs distributed through the aviation trust fund has no guarantee.
"I need your help to be able to convince the Congress about why the trust fund, the aviation trust fund, should be treated in the same manner as the highway trust fund," Mineta said.
AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote a letter last week to President Bush, urging him to reconsider the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) decision to cut the Federal Aviation Administration's budget.
Secretary Mineta also stated that in looking at the preliminary budget he received from OMB, "We're woefully short of where we should be."
AIR-21 agreement may not be honored
Feb. 1, 2001 — AOPA has learned that in developing President Bush's first budget request, the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) is leaning toward not honoring last year's AIR-21 agreement unlocking the aviation trust fund. If this decision were to be enacted by Congress, it would slow down deployment of new air traffic control modernization equipment, delay airport infrastructure upgrades, and place serious strains on vital programs such as controller training.
Top Republican and Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee are taking steps to ensure the AIR-21 increases will indeed take place. Yesterday U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), the Ranking Democrat of the T&I Committee, sent a letter to the President, requesting that he fully fund the $53 billion in highway and aviation projects previously approved by Congress.
"These funding levels are critical to modernizing our surface transportation and aviation infrastructure — both of which are experiencing increasing gridlock," Young and Oberstar wrote.
The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Pete Domenici (N.M.), has argued that based on new budget projections, it is possible to enact President Bush's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut as well as new spending for prescription drugs and increased defense and education spending — provided other spending grows only at the rate of inflation.
But FAA operational spending is expected to grow at a rate well beyond annual inflation, putting pressure on Congress to either cut other unrelated spending below the inflation rate or perhaps undermine the previously agreed-upon increases for FAA modernization and airport infrastructure, an approach OMB appears to be taking.
Unlocking the aviation trust fund is a key element to preventing user fees, and AOPA will join Chairman Young and Representative Oberstar in the fight for full funding of AIR-21.
New Chairmen Named for Senate and House Aviation Subcommittees
Jan. 31, 2001 — Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) has been named chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation aviation subcommittee. At Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Hutchinson expressed concern with the staff qualifications of the board of directors of Air Traffic Operations and also with the recommendation that services related to the air traffic system be placed in a performance-based organization (PBO).
Senator Hutchison served as vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in 1976 and was elected to the Senate in 1993.
Representative John L. Mica (R-Fla.) is now chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee. Representative Mica began service in the House in 1993 and has been a member of both the aviation subcommittee and the ground transportation subcommittee. Part of Rep. Mica's district includes Daytona Beach, which is home to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, one of the nation's leading aviation institutes.
Panel Assignments for House Democrats Delayed
The House of Representatives Democratic Steering Committee still has not assigned all the Democratic freshmen their committee assignments. The Appropriations Committee assignment has proved to be among the most difficult of the decisions for the Steering Committee. The committee is hoping that House Speaker Dennis Hastert will grant Democrats an additional seat on Appropriations. As of now, there is only one Democratic seat to fill on Appropriations, and at least three members are being considered for it.
The committee assignments for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are completed, however, and the panel now includes four Democratic freshmen: AOPA-supported Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), Rep. Brad Carson (Okla.), Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.), and Rep. Richard Larsen (Wash.).
Jan. 30, 2001 — The Boeing Co. announced today that by May it will give the FAA a comprehensive plan to replace the nation's radar-based air traffic control system with a satellite-based one, reports Washington Post staff writer Don Phillips. According to the Post, the plan could squeeze up to 50 percent more flights into available airspace — that would be a dramatic increase from current FAA estimates of 5-15 percent improvement in air traffic control through its modernization plans.
Boeing officials stressed to AOPA the proposal is a system design model, not a management or revenue model (i.e., user fees), but that fresh new operational concepts are needed to break away from the FAA's current operational concepts based in the 1950s.
Mineta Confirmed, Promises Bipartisan Approach to Transportation
Jan. 24, 2001 — The U.S. Senate this afternoon confirmed Norman Mineta as secretary of Transportation.
Earlier today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Mineta committed to an "inclusive, bipartisan" approach to solving the nation's transportation challenges.
Noting airlines, airports, and air traffic control are all struggling to keep up with demand, Mineta stated that each of the parties placing blame on the other is not a solution to the problem and committed the Transportation Department to taking the lead in solving the air traffic element of airline delays. Mineta acknowledged there is not a short-term solution to ATC delays, short of an economic recession, and warned flight delays could be similar or worse in 2001.
Secretary Mineta expressed frustration with the fact that leaps in technology and technology management have not been put to work in air traffic control. He personally committed himself to finding top-quality people to fill important positions in the FAA's new air traffic control organization. Secretary Mineta cautioned the pace of growth, demand, and new technology require a degree of "nimbleness" with which traditional federal entities cannot keep up. Noting the FAA's new air traffic control organization is a hybrid of traditional government with the attributes of the private sector, Mineta cautioned that the transition would neither be smooth nor would the success of the approach be guaranteed.
Questions from individual senators to Secretary Mineta ranged from skepticism about President Clinton's creation of a performance-based organization for air traffic control to various proposals to make it easier to build runways in congested areas.
Jan. 17, 2001 — The results of the Senate committee assignments are in, and three freshmen will join four other senators as new members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The Commerce panel has jurisdiction over all aspects of the aviation industry, including the aviation trust fund and the reauthorization of the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Freshman Senator Jean Carnahan (Mo.) will join fellow Democrats John Edwards (N.C.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) as new members of the committee.
While the Senate Republicans have still not named all of their committee assignments, the Commerce Committee assignments have been completed.
Freshmen Republican Senators George Allen (Va.) and John Ensign (Nev.), along with Senators Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.), will have new seats on the Commerce Committee. Senator Gordon Smith is an aircraft owner.
The positions for chairmen of the House and Senate aviation subcommittees have not yet been selected.
Mineta Confirmation Hearing Scheduled
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the nomination of Norman Y. Mineta to be secretary of Transportation. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 24, at 9:30 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Mineta is currently President Clinton's commerce secretary. He is not expected to have any confirmation difficulties.
House GOP Names New Members for Committees and Subcommittees
Jan. 9, 2001 — A rule limiting committee chairmen to six years, approved when Republicans first took over the House of Representatives in 1994, was implemented late last week and will change the leadership of key committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over general aviation issues.
Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) was, as expected, named the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A longtime supporter of AOPA, Chairman Young was previously chairman of the House Resources Committee and 2nd Ranking Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was also a member of the House aviation subcommittee and of the Republican Steering Committee. Representative Young strongly supported AIR-21 and co-sponsored H.R. 3661, the General Aviation Access Act, a bill that would ensure general aviation aircraft access to federal land and to the airspace over that land. Representative Young is sensitive to the general aviation community's needs, as Alaskans rely heavily on general aviation.
The author of H.R. 3661, Representative James Hansen of Utah, has now been named the chairman of the House Resources Committee. Representative Hansen is a GA pilot and a member of AOPA. In 1994 Chairman Hansen won the AOPA's Hartranft Award for Public Service in recognition of his efforts on behalf of general aviation product liability.
Finally, on Saturday three new members of Congress — Sam Graves (Mo.), Dennis Rehberg (Mont.) and Mike Rogers (Mich.) — supported by AOPA-PAC, were named to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. AOPA-PAC generates its funding through voluntary contributions and not through membership dues.
New Chairman for FAA Funding Panel Also Named
Additionally late last week, Representative Bill Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, named Representative Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) as the new chairman of the House transportation appropriations subcommittee. Chairman Rogers replaces Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.). The Transportation subcommittee is responsible for the annual funding of the FAA and is key to ensuring continued funding of the AIR-21 agreement. For the past six years, Rep. Rogers has been a member of the transportation panel while also chairing the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State.
New chairmen for the House and Senate aviation subcommittees and ranking member of the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee are expected in the coming weeks.
House Democrat Lineup Still Unclear
While the Democratic ranking members for House committees and subcommittees will stay the same, an ongoing dispute over committee ratios has delayed Democratic committee assignments until after the House returns January 30.
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