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AOPA President Phil Boyer's speech before the Interagency GroupAOPA President Phil Boyer's speech before the Interagency Group

AOPA President Phil Boyer's speech before the Interagency Group

I don't know why I got the "cleanup" speaking position, and then let me add my apologies to Mike for focusing on the twelve to six o'clock people in my view, rather than the other side where we know pretty much all the faces and have dealt with them. Let me echo my sentiments to the others at the table here who appreciate those of you we haven't met before, and now we can put faces to names or at least to agencies that you represent.

You have heard a lot about charter, about business aircraft, military aircraft, ultralight aircraft, manufacturers, and helicopters. We each have a constituency as Ed Bolen from the General Aviation Manufacturers has said. My constituency is as the title of our organization cites: the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. After I hear everybody talk about the security actions of their memberships, I guess you are going to look at me and say, "Well, this must be the group that's the problem," because we don't have the security claimed by charter or the type of corporate aviation security on behalf of the executive on board. We are very much an organization that represents a huge constituency, which must be as you look at it, or looked at it on September 11th at the end of the day, "Wow, what do we do with all these kinds of airplanes?"

There are about 640,000 active licensed pilots in the United States, at least that we all know of on the FAA records. About 550,000 of them we can call people who enjoy general aviation flying. They use aviation for business or pleasure. Just like you use a personal car. And the average airplane is about the size and weight of a Honda Civic. 400,000 of these 550,000 are AOPA members, so we may be the biggest part of whatever problem we're trying to solve.

There are 200,000 general aviation aircraft, not military, not scheduled air carrier aircraft, and about 150,000 of those owners are AOPA members. Probably the proudest thing you could have, just like you were 16, 17, or maybe you had to wait until 20, 21, or whatever, are the keys to one of these general aviation airplanes. [ Boyer held up keys to his Skyhawk.] You'd be an owner; you now have an asset that to these people is very important.

What does it take to get a license? Well, it's a lot different than going out and having powerboats as a hobby or a motorcycle, or even a car. It takes a substantial commitment of time and energy; of passion and challenge; and these individuals have to put that into their work in order to get a license. They have to spend at least six months, go through about 70 hours of flight instruction, take a written exam, take a medical exam, and then after they get that license, and maybe lucky enough to have the keys [ holds keys again], they also have to recertify ever two years and get a medical at least every two years. So they're part of a large federal registry, the airplanes themselves and the pilot themselves, that are out there.

I'm not going to tell you all AOPA pilots are out saving lives, fighting fires, doing electronic news gathering, or chartering their planes as the head of NATA described. GA pilots are using these airplanes with three to four seats on average, in a single-engine, fixed-gear aircraft basically for personal and business transportation. And they put a fairly sizable investment in this activity. Not only the airplane themselves, but in the upkeep. Let me give you an example: Just about 40 miles away at Frederick, Maryland, the hangar for the airplane that goes with these keys is $325 a month; insurance is about $150 a month and the maintenance on that airplane, which is required by the Federal Aviation Administration regulations, about another $150 a month. So before you even take the airplane out of the hangar, there's an outpouring of $650 to $700 a month that these people have made as their commitment to aircraft ownership. And in many cases those airplanes when grounded, like the businesses that Jim Coyne from NATA talked about, are subject to many other family members, those who may not enjoying flying as much, or who tolerate a husband or wife's passion. Many will just decide not to keep this valuable asset any longer.

I represent pilots, and the best way to understand them is to hear the kinds of comments they are sending us, as their representative. I'm going to limit these to operational comments, not comments that have four-letter words in them and negatives about our government's thinking power.

"Instructors are having trouble convincing students to continue their flight training because they don't find this anywhere near enjoyable."

By the way, these are the comments from the Washington and New York areas in the last two weeks.

"Restrictions are beginning to take the fun out of flying and ownership. I'm starting to see a lot of similarities between my overall investment in flying and the stock market."

"There is an insidious effect of fewer flying opportunities, fewer active pilots. Already our club has lost 3 pilot members in the last month that decided to save themselves money until the situation improves."

"I spent 55 minutes on Saturday trying to pick up my IFR flight plan. It was 30 minutes after the proposed departure time before I got through on the telephone. I wouldn't mind the procedures if they worked."

And please understand, one of the points I want to leave you with is while we hope and know that you are being very conscientious in your jobs to maintain this country's security in where you place airspace restrictions...we really need to work on the operational requirements within those. You know that the FAA has partnered with us and the TSA to try to bring an operational reality to the airspace restrictions. We have worked closely in providing proactive solutions to both agencies, as you have also heard from the helicopter community. General aviation pilots are more than willing to follow the regulations if they are know ahead of time, well explained, and operational can be followed.

"This is hurting our business, it's putting an unfair financial strain on students and renters. I will elect to quit rather than to put up with all the hassles." This is from a pilot licensed since 1988 and a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) instructor who are so valuable we use so vitally in many of our search and rescue things.

"A simple one-hour trip took almost 2 hours, and fuel was getting low when I got home." Our headquarters is at Frederick, Maryland, at the Frederick Airport, which is just outside of the Washington ADIZ. On a nice weekend it is busier than all get out with planes that are circling over our airport, trying to get the flight plan needed or the activation to the code needed to get back into the DC restricted airspace.

If I could just leave three thoughts. We know that you use threat-based information to place these in effect, and we hope you will continue to emphasize the need for credible security threats in issuing airspace restrictions. We've been assured by the TSA, actually Admiral Loy, even as late as last Monday that the requests from governors, from states, from mayors of cities, will not be approved unless threat based as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. As established, AOPA implores there be sound operational plans. We hope that you will work with the industry, in which we have said in this room several times. We have a four-page memo on the ADIZ in Washington that my staff and I personally spent at least a week of work putting together. It clearly states some simple solutions that can work for the controllers and the pilots, and we feel will still solve the security concerns. We've yet to get an answer on that submission to the FAA and the TSA, and maybe its something you'd want to ask about.

And so, we pledge as a third item, please do work with us! I have to personally answer e-mails and phone calls. Our AOPA staff of 225 employees hear from members every single heard me read just a few of these previously.

The one I can't answer now is..."Phil, should I turn my airplane keys in now, or are they going to be worthless sometime later?" [ Places keys on table.]

Thank you.

March 28, 2003

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