Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) spoke out for GA today against a provision in the House Transportation Appropriations bill that would prevent FAA from changing or issuing waivers to notam 2/0199, the revision of the "Catch 22" notam restricting flight over major sporting events.
AOPA Legislative Affairs staff was in attendance during the Appropriations Committee's final "markup" session today as Rep. Kolbe spoke out against the provision (which had been inserted into the bill by Michigan Rep. Fred Upton) saying, "This is really about whether you can have advertising banners over sporting events." He described banner towers as "very, very limited in terms of a real threat.... This is really about the fact that [this is the one thing] the National Football League, baseball, NCAA can't tax.... They control all the revenue—all TV, concessions, T-shirts, etc. The one thing that they can't get their hands on is the banner towers. [This provision] puts a very onerous limitation on general aviation. It also says that the airports within 3 miles of these events must be closed. There are an unbelievable number of these airports that would be closed [with the TFR].... This is really about competitors to professional sports."
Kolbe asked how the government would resolve practical issues regarding nontowered airports and how pilots would be notified about event details such as the number of people in the stadium and the timing of the games. He also asked about event duration, stating that events like NASCAR can go on for a week.
Rep. Upton is taking another legislative tack to shut down banner towers and other legitimate aerial operations near sports events. He is also the sponsor of H.R.5456, a bill that would prohibit issuing waivers to aerial banner towers. The bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, provides exceptions only for television coverage or security. AOPA President Phil Boyer sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives in response to Congressman Upton's legislation. "This is an aviation security issue," Boyer said in his letter. "Let's not allow the NFL, major league baseball, college sports, and others couple their honest security concerns with an opportunity to solve a competitive business issue by dictating federal airspace policy. Let's leave this regulation in the hands of the two congressionally mandated regulators!"