AOPA has presented even more evidence to show that the FAA's proposed charity / sightseeing rule - the National Air Tour Safety Standards - would harm charities and small businesses and is not justified by safety data. The association filed supplemental comments on the proposal Friday. "AOPA continues to oppose this rule," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "Nothing in FAA's original filing, nothing from the public comments, nothing from the public meetings shows that there is a significant safety issue on sightseeing and charity flights that must be addressed by this rulemaking initiative."
The rule would require that private pilots conducting charity sightseeing flights have at least 500 hours experience. It would also require that small sightseeing companies currently operating under Part 91 rules comply with the more restrictive Part 135 rules applying to charter operations. Even sightseeing companies currently flying under Part 135 would see greater restrictions. And that would significantly harm these small businesses.
AOPA conducted four surveys over three months to determine the actual impact.
"The surveys show that the FAA has underestimated sightseeing business closures by up to 100 percent and has failed to consider the substantial adverse economic impact on charities," Cebula said.
Of the Part 91 sightseeing operators surveyed, 82% said they would or could not comply with the proposed regulations. Some 94% said they would lose aircraft if the rule were imposed. (These businesses typically operate fewer than five aircraft and fly within 25 miles of the airport. They generally provide sightseeing rides in resort or scenic areas.)
The proposed rules covering charity flights would exclude some 21% of the current pilot population from participating in these flights. And 92% of AOPA members are opposed to rules, because of the impact on charity operations.
AOPA had argued in its previous comments that the FAA had presented flawed accident statistics to justify the rule. When the statistics were corrected, it was found that Part 91 sightseeing operations had a better accident rate than sightseeing conducted under Part 121/135 rules.
In the supplemental comments, AOPA said FAA had already addressed NTSB concerns about large, commercial sightseeing operations in current regulations. The association reminded the FAA that it had the authority to disagree with NTSB recommendations.
June 21, 2004