A modified version of Sen. John Breaux's (D-La.) stadium overflight legislation passed the Senate Monday night. The amendment to the Aviation Security Improvement Act ( S.2949) was passed by a voice vote. The legislation includes some of the changes AOPA had lobbied for, including a provision that would permit operations by most general aviation aircraft from nontowered airports near major sports stadiums. However, the legislation would still effectively ban aerial advertising aircraft near stadiums. The bill is not likely to be considered by the House in the waning hours of this session. That means the legislation would have to be reintroduced in the new session of Congress next year.
"While the legislation was changed so that it would have minimal impact on the majority of general aviation pilots, we still believe it's bad public policy to allow commercial sporting interests to dictate who may fly in the nation's public airspace," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs.
The bill was clearly targeted at banner-towing aircraft, and the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and major colleges lobbied heavily for it. Perhaps not coincidently, banner towers are the only form of advertising at major games that isn't controlled by the league, teams, or schools.
Section 601 of the Aviation Security Improvement Act would require the government to keep notam 2/0199 in full force for 180 days after the enactment of the law. (The notam bans overflight of stadiums seating more than 30,000 people during game time.) It would require the government to rescind the current waivers in effect allowing approved banner towers to fly near stadiums. (Banner-towing operators currently have to pass an extensive TSA security clearance before being granted the waiver.)
The legislation would permit exemptions from the overflight ban to aircraft under air traffic control; aircraft arriving or departing from nearby airports using standard air traffic procedures (flying a normal pattern at a nontowered airport); aircraft providing broadcast coverage; aircraft transporting officials, team members, team member families, equipment, etc. to the event; and necessary aircraft operations for security and safety.
After 180 days, the legislation would permit the government to issue, after public review and comment, a new rule setting standards for granting waivers and exemptions to the overflight ban.
Once again, the House has not approved the Aviation Security Improvement Act and the stadium overflight amendment. The legislation may be considered anew next year.