Congressional opposition to charity/sightseeing proposed rule gathering strength
Feb. 13, 2004 Two more influential members of Congress have weighed in on the proposed FAA rule on FAR Part 91 charity and sightseeing operations, saying it is a bad one that should not be implemented. In separate letters, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) of the Senate aviation subcommittee and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) of the House aviation subcommittee say the FAA's analysis of the need for the rule is flawed. In formal comments filed with the FAA, the government of the State of Tennessee agrees. Larsen and the State of Tennessee call for a complete reevaluation of the FAA's data.
"This is a flawed proposal and should not move forward in its current form," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "That is why FAA public meetings are important, but failing that, Congress must get involved."
The rule would more than double the hours a pilot helping a charity with fundraising flights must have, force Part 91 sightseeing operators to convert to Part 135 tour operators (driving, by the FAA's own estimation, hundreds out of business), and impose expensive new requirements on Part 135 air tour operators.
In his letter, Larsen says, "I respectfully request a reevaluation of this NPRM to determine the accuracy of the FAA's analysis concerning these restrictions." Burns echoes the concern, saying, "The NPRM was developed as a response to the NTSB recommendations for making such flights safer ... However from 1993 to 2000, the FAA states that accidents among the existing 400 Part 135 operators produced nearly twice as many fatalities than the existing Part 91 operators."
Compounding the problem is the FAA's refusal to hold face-to-face meetings with those affected. The agency is instead holding a "virtual meeting," essentially a weeklong Internet chat session in which the agency will respond during normal business hours to comments submitted.
AOPA contends that the virtual meeting would be an acceptable addition to, but is no substitute for, face-to-face meetings. Burns and Larsen, as well as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), Rep. Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.), Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) have all joined the call for face-to-face meetings.