AOPA President Phil Boyer will take general aviation's concerns directly to Congress on Wednesday, when he testifies before the House aviation subcommittee. First and foremost in his testimony will be the destruction of the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field in Chicago.
"With blatant disregard for the airport's importance, city officials destroyed the lone runway at Chicago's Meigs Field under the cover of night for 'homeland security reasons,'" reads Boyer's advance statement that will be submitted for the record. "The Department of Homeland Security never indicated such a risk existed after an analysis of intelligence information.
"It is vital that the federal government reaffirm its authority over security matters affecting our national air transportation system. Our nation's airports and airspace face a patchwork of restrictions and closures via local and state power grabs that further endanger the continued viability, safety, and welfare of the aviation system."
Visit the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Web page at 2 p.m. EDT to hear Phil Boyer's testimony live.
The subcommittee is taking testimony on the FAA reauthorization bill, which will outline Congress's priorities for the agency and dictates how the FAA should spend its money over the next six years.
During his presentation to the subcommittee, Boyer will also stress two other issues of vital concern not only to general aviation, but the entire aviation industry: the privatization of both air traffic control (ATC) and aeronautical chart publication.
The Office of Management and Budget has reclassified each as a commercial activity that could be contracted out. AOPA contends that air traffic control is a safety-of-flight issue and is therefore a national security concern, and as such is an inherently governmental function. Aeronautical charts directly support the ATC operations and, therefore, should also be treated as an inherently governmental function.
Boyer will offer some creative alternatives for funding airports. The federal government currently funds 90 percent of the cost of many airport improvement projects through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), with the remaining 10 percent split between the state and local governments. In order to help more small airports (50 or fewer based aircraft) take advantage of AIP funding, AOPA is proposing that five percent of the cost (half of the state/local match) be waived for those small airports.
AOPA will also suggest that grants for non-primary airports be increased from $150,000 to $250,000 per year, and that any unused non-primary grant money be given to the states for them to use on airport improvements at their discretion, rather than having the money returned to the federal pot.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. To listen live to Phil Boyer's testimony, visit the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Web page.