AOPA agrees that the recent legislation banning aerial advertising over large stadiums is outrageous. That's why the association worked so hard for so long to prevent it from being instituted. The motivation behind this legislation is monetary—it has nothing to do with security.
Since last May, when the issue began receiving congressional attention, the stadium overflight and aerial-advertising issue has been one of the many priorities facing the AOPA staff. Our legislative lobbyists put in countless hours trying to head off the endless pressure and influence the sporting interests placed on Congress. On a daily basis, AOPA Legislative Affairs was rebutting personal calls placed to members of Congress by NFL, Major League Baseball, college sports, their lobbyists, lawyers, team owners, star players, and coaches. Our initial efforts paid off when senators Burns (R-Mont.) and Inhofe (R-Okla.) attempted to thwart the legislation. On the House side, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and ranking member James Oberstar (D-Minn.) wrote House Appropriations Chairman C. W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) requesting that the Appropriations Committee drop the matter. Also, Appropriations Committee member Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) railed against the language in the "mark-up" of the legislation where members debate and amend the finer points of legislation before it is sent on for further consideration.
In addition to our legislative efforts, AOPA secured valuable support from the highest ranks of the Transportation Security Administration against aerial advertising restrictions. Unfortunately, Congress has decided to heed the power and influence of the sports interests rather than the calculated security assessment of the agency they tasked with ensuring the security of the nation's transportation systems.
Because this is a business issue best handled by a "trade association" or special-interest lobbying firm, from the beginning AOPA staff strongly recommended that the banner towing community enlist the help of an independent lobbyist to fight against this legislation. The banner towers decided to invest their resources in court challenges rather than legislative efforts. Simply stated, we warned the banner tower leadership that our chances for success were greatly diminished if AOPA were left alone to lobby against these restrictions. The sports interest lobbies are just too strong.
While we understand that some of the banner towers are now seeking an organization to blame, AOPA did everything within its power to prevent aerial advertising operational prohibitions. While we recognized that the vast majority of our membership would be served by ensuring that mainstream GA could continue normal airport operations within the stadium TFR areas, it was always AOPA's intent to fight to protect the operational rights of aerial advertisers. At no time were aerial advertisers considered to be a secondary objective or "bargaining chip." Throughout this ordeal, AOPA has steadfastly held to its commitment to fight for continued aerial advertising operations.
February 19, 2003