One reason why AOPA is such an effective political force is the power of our more than 400,000 members. Politicians know that AOPA members vote in much greater numbers than the average citizen.
To help you decide how to use your vote, AOPA Pilot magazine questioned both presidential candidates on a wide range of topics that affect general aviation pilots, from protecting airports to funding the air traffic control system to general aviation security. This exclusive coverage is in the October issue, arriving in mailboxes this week.
"Whoever is sitting in the White House next year will have a strong influence on decisions that will greatly affect general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These will range from the appointment of an FAA administrator to whether the air traffic control system is a government or private service.
"Out on the campaign trail, the candidates are discussing broad issues of foreign and domestic policy. Those are vitally important, but also we want pilots to know where they stand on GA."
Both candidates came out strong in support of GA airports.
"General aviation is an important part of our economy, and continued investment in civilian airports is central to our economic growth," said Republican candidate President George W. Bush.
Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry said, "I believe that general aviation airports are an integral part of the national airport system. Increased domestic security is now a fact of life, but I think that the government has a responsibility to see that the effect on businesses and individuals is minimized."
Asked about general aviation security, both candidates noted AOPA's Airport Watch.
Bush said, "My administration has found that general aviation operators are keenly aware of and willing to individually enhance the security of their operations without government regulation," while Kerry commented, "We can't mandate rules that would stifle economic growth or infringe on civil liberties, but we also need to take commonsense steps to make the security improvements that can help prevent another 9/11."
Preventing the privatization of the air traffic control system and user fees for access are repeatedly listed among AOPA members' highest priorities. Both candidates said they favor the current method of using taxes on aviation fuel to fund aviation services over a method used in other countries that charges fees based on each component of a flight.
On ATC privatization, Bush reiterated FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's statement last year that "the administration has no plans to privatize the air traffic control system." Kerry said, "I oppose privatizing the air traffic control system."
Both candidates have flying experience. Bush has logged flight time as a military pilot, while Kerry has a commercial pilot certificate.
"At this point, the 2004 election appears to be as closely divided as the one four years ago," said Boyer. "But because both candidates have logged a lot of flight hours, the one certainty is that the next person to occupy the Oval Office will also know what it's like to sit in the left seat."
September 24, 2004