Call it a full-court press. AOPA is jumping into every available arena to make sure policy makers and lawmakers understand general aviation and AOPA members' concerns about user fees. And AOPA is using every opportunity to show that the association is both concerned and proactive about reducing the FAA's costs.
This time the forum was an Air Traffic Control Association conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the future of the air traffic control system. And the airlines (in the form of a representative from the Air Transport Association - the airlines' trade group) claimed that general aviation was competing with them for airspace and airport access.
But AOPA's Andy Cebula, senior vice president of government and technical affairs, was there Tuesday to present the members' and GA pilots' perspective.
"The possibility of user fees and the closure of airports are our members' top concerns," Cebula told the conference. "They believe that user fees are not the way to finance the FAA, and that fees would harm general aviation."
But Cebula also pointed out that AOPA is doing more than just saying "no user fees." The association is actively engaged to find ways to reduce the FAA's costs.
"We supported the A76 process to find the most cost-efficient way to provide flight service information. The result of that will save the FAA $2.2 billion," Cebula said. "We've agreed that it makes sense to decommission redundant NDB approaches, and to close some control towers during the graveyard shift when hardly anybody is using the airport as additional ways to save money."
Cebula gave the attendees at the air traffic control conference a true picture of AOPA members and how they use the system. GA is not a significant user of air traffic control. Some 90 percent of all GA flights are flown VFR, in most cases without the need to involve air traffic control. At many airports, the control tower is only there because of a few airline flights a day. If it weren't for the airlines, general aviation wouldn't have - or need - a control tower.
"There is going to be increasing noise about the FAA's funding difficulties and who pays for what," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "That's why AOPA will use every opportunity to make sure the truth is known.
"Our members want a safe and efficient air transportation system. And they want it without user fees. AOPA will do everything in its power to keep things that way."
April 19, 2005