The Senate Commerce committee has asked AOPA for help in passing the FAA reauthorization legislation. AOPA's Andy Cebula, senior vice president of government and technical affairs, joined representatives from the nation's airlines, airports, and aircraft manufacturers in a special meeting with Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to secure support for the compromise House-Senate bill (known as Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act Conference Report to H.R.2115), which provides a time-limited prohibition against ATC privatization and other significant benefits for general aviation.
"Like many pieces of legislation, this bill contains a mix of provisions developed by negotiation and compromise, some favorable to America's general aviation pilots and others that are less than ideal," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "While we don't like everything about the bill, we are asking senators to support it by voting 'yes.'"
Some senators are considering undoing the compromise between the House and Senate over the issue of privatizing FAA functions.
But in a letter sent to all members of the Senate, Boyer wrote, "One of the issues key to AOPA members is the legislation's four-year moratorium prohibiting the FAA from transferring the air traffic control system aircraft separation and control functions to any public or private entity other than the United States government."
However as any pilot knows, a forecast of clear weather is not a guarantee. The storm clouds of ATC privatization and user fees will likely build again. "We are disappointed that the bill stops short of declaring ATC as 'inherently governmental,' as AOPA's members wanted," wrote Boyer. "This means the issue of privatizing air traffic control will continue to be a distraction for government policy makers and the aviation community."
"However, the need for passage of Vision 100 and the important benefits it contains outweigh the limited moratorium on privatization."
Among the benefits for general aviation, Boyer noted the provision of an independent third-party review for pilots snared by the "pilot insecurity" rule, the prevention of airport closure without federal notification (the "Meigs Legacy" amendment), and funding for airport development and important GA airport services.
"Because of the impending expiration of the current FAA reauthorization legislation and the likelihood that Congress would not be able to devote additional time to the issue, [Vision 100] becomes a 'must pass' piece of aviation legislation for the 108th Congress," Boyer said.