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General aviation must be part of government aviation plan, AOPA saysGeneral aviation must be part of government aviation plan, AOPA says

General aviation must be part of government aviation plan, AOPA says

Today's aviation system can't meet twenty-first century needs, according to various government and private panels. That's got the attention of Congress and the White House, and they have created a group that is now in the planning stages to prepare for change.

AOPA is sticking its foot in the door to make sure the plan supports the typical single-engine general aviation operation. That means no user fees for air traffic control services, preservation of general aviation airports, and equal access to airspace and airports for GA pilots.

Congress created last year the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) to develop an "integrated national plan - a roadmap for what the aviation system of the future will be." They are to identify the key research and development strategies for transforming the National Airspace System. The JPDO is to work with the departments of Transportation, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security, along with NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to develop the plan. Public- and private-sector experts will also contribute.

AOPA's Senior Director of Advanced Technology Randy Kenagy is the general aviation expert advocating for GA pilots and aircraft owners, who are the majority of users of the air transportation system.

"It's all too easy for a group like this to get wrapped up in the needs of the airlines and the flight-level fliers," said Kenagy. "AOPA's role is make sure they understand that our kind of general aviation not only has needs, it is also part of the solution."

AOPA presented the JPDO with a list of important issues it must consider as it develops its plan (which is supposed to go to Congress this December). Some of the issues include the following:

  • Air traffic control must continue to be provided to general aviation pilots without user fees. Drawing the analogy to roads and waterways, AOPA said the aviation transportation system should be equally available to all users without individual user fees.
  • General aviation airports must be preserved and expanded. The demand for increased system capacity can only be met with more runways. Actively preserving and improving existing airports is a low-cost investment in the future National Airspace System.
  • The system must remain accessible to VFR users. More than 90 percent of general aviation flights are VFR, not requiring air traffic control oversight. The future system must preserve the ability of a VFR pilot to use airports and airspace.
  • General aviation must continue to have consistent, reliable access to terminal airspace around the busy hub airports. AOPA members are increasingly using their personal aircraft for business transportation to these centers of commerce; access shouldn't be limited to just the airlines.
  • Homeland security rules shouldn't hamstring general aviation. The Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and Presidential temporary flight restriction (TFR) areas are examples of how additional security regulations aren't supported by required enhancements to air traffic services. The inability of the air traffic control system to handle the additional, security-imposed workload has had a substantial effect on all airspace users, causing delays for GA and commercial operators.
  • General aviation must have high-quality, reliable, and free weather information. The future system should provide the timely distribution of graphic weather information on the ground and to the cockpit.

AOPA also said that the government must continue modernizing GPS and the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), minimize the impact of new vehicles (spacecraft and unmanned aerial vehicles) on existing airspace users, and set realistic and achievable environmental standards.

"In the future, more of 'the system' will be carried on board the aircraft, with much less dependence on ground-based equipment," said Kenagy. "ADS-B and digital radios are only the beginning. Any equipment required in the future must be affordable, and there must be a reasonable phase-in time.

"And if the transformation of the National Airspace System requires an immediate and substantial investment in aircraft equipment, then the federal government must provide financial assistance to owners to make it happen," Kenagy said.

Finally, AOPA said that as the leader in aviation infrastructure and technology, the U.S. government should work to propagate U.S. standards worldwide.

"Convincing other countries that they should support their citizens' ability to maximize the utility of general aviation aircraft is just one benefit from a strong U.S. presence in global aviation," AOPA said.

July 27, 2004

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