Early indicators are that general aviation will get some positive action out of Congress this year. The House aviation subcommittee on Thursday approved two pieces of legislation, which if ultimately signed into law by the President, would include two measures strongly supported by AOPA: government control of air traffic control (ATC) and an improved appeals process for pilots who lose their certificates for security reasons.
The $59 billion FAA reauthorization bill, a multi-year spending blueprint that outlines congressional priorities for the FAA, includes a number of provisions that would benefit GA. One in particular deals with AOPA's concern that the government might privatize ATC. Lawmakers included language to restore the definition of ATC to an "inherently governmental" function.
"AOPA has argued insistently that control of the nation's airspace must remain under the direct control of the government, ever since the Office of Management and Budget declared ATC to be a commercial function, eligible to be farmed out to the lowest bidder," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This language would guarantee that ATC remains a government function."
The aviation subcommittee also approved an aviation security bill, one provision of which would require the FAA and TSA to provide a third-party review for any pilot who loses his certification due to allegations that he is a security risk under the so-called "pilot insecurity" rule. The chairman and top Democrat of the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.), and the chairman and highest ranking Democrat of the aviation subcommittee, Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), worked with AOPA and commercial pilot groups to craft the legislation to deal with the lack of due process in the current rule.
Currently, TSA can direct the FAA to revoke a pilot's certificate if the pilot is deemed a security threat. The pilot can appeal the decision only to TSA, and he may not be able to see the evidence against him if that evidence is classified. DeFazio said he recognizes the sensitivity of some of the intelligence-based evidence but hopes that the appeals process the subcommittee approved would help protect the information while allowing pilots to defend themselves against the allegations.
The measures approved today are expected to go before the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sometime next week, before being sent to the full House for a vote.
The Senate version is awaiting action by the full Senate, probably sometime after Memorial Day.