The federal spending bill signed by President Bush late last week includes items beneficial to general aviation. AOPA Legislative Affairs staff worked with members of appropriations committees to secure funding for such things as graphical notams, GA airport improvements, and enhancements to flight service stations.
The omnibus spending bill (Public Law 108-7) pays for government programs for the remainder of the fiscal year (which ends September 30, 2003). Besides allocating funds, the bill also directs the FAA to do certain things.
For example, after AOPA explained the current problems pilots have in obtaining clear, accurate, and timely information on airspace restrictions, Congress told the FAA to "expand the use of graphics to not only flight service stations, but also to provide pilots with advisory graphics of information contained in the notams including temporary flight restrictions. It is important that graphics on Special Use Airspace also be made available, and the Committee believes that advisory graphics can be conveyed through the direct user access terminal system (DUAT) and other sources, including the Internet."
Flight service station specialists should be able to provide more help and information to pilots with modernized equipment. They'll get that because Congress provided full funding to move forward with the Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS), a Windows-based, upgradable system that will replace obsolete mainframe computers from the 1970s.
The new law also funds nonprecision GPS approaches for general aviation airports and requires that the FAA expedite the new pilot certification procedure known as the Aeromedical Digital Imaging and Workflow System (DIWS). That system is supposed to improve the processing of medical certificates not issued directly by an aeromedical examiner (AME). For years, bottlenecks in the FAA's Oklahoma City office have delayed the processing of "special issuance" certificates.
Development of general aviation airports will continue to benefit from the $3.4 billion available through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The law includes the "GA entitlement program," supported by AOPA, that automatically allocates as much as $150,000 per GA airport in addition to regular AIP funding.
On the negative side, however, an onerous provision restricting aerial advertisers from flying at sporting venues was included despite fierce objection by AOPA and a number of congressional "heavy hitters."