A growing sense of concern in Congress and among the public about a proposed FAA rule governing charity fundraising flights and sightseeing flights is increasing pressure on the agency to accept an AOPA suggestion and meet face-to-face with affected pilots.
Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) have each written to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, urging the agency to hold public meetings so it can better understand the impact of the proposal.
AOPA told the agency more than a month ago that it needed to talk directly to pilots about a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would more than double the flight hours a pilot would be required to have before being eligible to help with charity fundraising flights and would, by the FAA's own estimation, drive hundreds of small sightseeing operations out of the business.
Issa echoed AOPA's concerns, writing, "I am a licensed general aviation pilot. Limiting pilots to four charity events a year will certainly reduce the pool of available pilots to help in charity and fundraising flights and will be damaging to small aviation businesses. In total, this NPRM could potentially affect every general aviation pilot and professional, who participate in charitable sightseeing events and tours under FAR Part 91."
In her letter, Rep. Brown-Waite, who represents a state with the second-largest pilot population in the United States, added, "I am concerned that the FAA has failed to consider the true impact of this proposal on the general aviation community."
"The FAA is also getting an earful from the public," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "The agency has received more than 300 formal comments from individuals, and there's still a month left to go in the comment period. Officials need to reevaluate this rule, and they need to hear from pilots to do that effectively."
In his letter, Issa concurred. "It is important that the FAA evaluate this policy change by hearing directly from the general aviation community in a public forum," he wrote. "A series of public meetings will be an excellent mechanism to assist the FAA in its full analysis of its effect on aviators."