AOPA on Wednesday formally called on the FAA to hold public meetings on a proposed rule change that threatens to cause significant hardship for small sightseeing/air tour operators and pilots who help charities raise money. In the letter, AOPA said, "We are concerned that the FAA has failed to consider the true impacts of this proposal." AOPA believes it is imperative that the FAA see face-to-face and hear directly from the pilots who will be hurt if the rule is adopted.
The FAA claims the National Air Tour Safety Standards NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) is needed for safety reasons but offers only very weak supporting data, assembled from a jumble of 11 Part 91 and Part 135 accident reports.
The proposed rule would raise the minimum number of hours required for pilots conducting charity fundraising flights from 200 to 500 and remove an exemption that allows Part 91 sightseeing flights within 25 nm of an airport.
That, writes AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, "reduces the pool of available pilots to help in charity and fundraising flights.
"[AOPA] members have also expressed concern that the sightseeing elements of the proposed rule will adversely affect their livelihood. Through the FAA's own admission, the proposed rule will result in hundreds of small sightseeing operations going out of business."
"It's urgent that the FAA act quickly on our request," said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Melissa Bailey. "The FAA needs to hear directly from the people this rule is going to affect, and there's not a lot of time left to set up and hold public meetings."
The public comment period closes on January 20, 2004. Concerned parties can submit formal comments using the Department of Transportation's online Docket Management System, docket number 4521.