More than 1,200 pilots listened to Phil Boyer's presentation to the Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show outside of Seattle, Washington.
P UYALLUP, Washington—AOPA President Phil Boyer drew applause from a packed house of pilots in Puyallup, Washington, Saturday as he reviewed AOPA's advocacy for general aviation since September 11 and urged the FAA to approve a simple photo ID for pilots.
"We are trying to be proactive," Boyer told an audience of more than 1,200 pilots at the ninteenth annual Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show. "If we don't come up with our own solutions, the government will."
Boyer said AOPA had petitioned the FAA for a quick rule change that would require pilots to carry a valid, government-issued photo ID when in command of an aircraft. Under AOPA's proposal, a driver's license, passport, state ID card, or government-agency photo ID would be acceptable.
He said this approach, relying on documents that are already carried by most pilots, would be much less expensive and much easier to implement than the FAA's own plan to mint new photo IDs and issue them to all pilots, mechanics, and other FAA certificate holders.
There are about 630,000 active pilots in the United States, and another 530,000 holders of non-airman certificates.
Boyer said the FAA estimates that its own system would cost millions of dollars to implement, millions more every year to operate, and take five years to get up and running.
"If the FAA says it will take five years, you can bet it will take 10," he observed.
"And where would we go to get our photos taken?" he asked. "To our local FSDO?" Pilots in most areas of the country would find that highly inconvenient, he suggested.
In contrast, Boyer said, the measure proposed by AOPA addresses security concerns, could be accomplished at minimal cost and inconvenience to taxpayers and pilots, and would be up and running in a month.
Calling the Sept. 11 terror attacks an "aviation tragedy" that had "scared the crap out of all of us who fly," the AOPA president urged general aviation pilots to be on their best behavior in the coming months.
"Don't undo what we have accomplished," he pleaded, reviewing the hard-fought industry battle to free 41,000 airplanes and 120,000 pilots trapped on the ground for weeks while VFR flight was restricted around 30 U.S. metropolitan areas.
Boyer praised AOPA staffers for their work following Sept. 11 and said feedback from AOPA's 380,000 members was a "tremendous asset" in convincing the government to "free the 41,000."
In the days immediately following the attacks, when most general aviation flights remained grounded across the country, he said AOPA had to add two new computer servers to handle the flood of e-mail traffic into its Frederick, Maryland, headquarters.
Boyer said he personally was getting 500 to 600 e-mails a day from members during that period. "Is there anybody in the room who didn't e-mail me?" he quipped. "Ok. I see a couple of hands."
It was Boyer's twelfth trip to the Northwest Aviation Conference, a mid-winter event with an average annual attendance of 10,000. Perhaps reflective of pent-up demand in the wake of Sept. 11, this year's conference attracted 135 vendors—a third more than usual—and Boyer estimated the crowd to be the biggest he had seen.
Following his introduction, Boyer introduced Steve Swann, president of the newly formed Backcountry Airstrip Foundation, and pledged $1,500 from AOPA "to get you started on the right foot." The foundation is dedicated to preserving remote strips in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, California, and New Mexico.
AOPA has successfully lobbied for congressional agreements to protect backcountry airstrips.