Can a bunch of diplomats and technocrats in Montreal affect U.S. general aviation? You bet they can, because ICAO - the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations - is headquartered in that Canadian city. With the impact ICAO can have on us, it's important that general aviation have effective representation before that body.
Fortunately, we do, in the form of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations - IAOPA - and until recently, U.S. Ambassador to ICAO Ed Stimpson.
Last week, Stimpson was honored in Washington, D.C., upon his retirement from ICAO in a gala dinner attended by such notables as Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, and TSA chief Adm. David M. Stone.
AOPA President Phil Boyer, who is also IAOPA president, said of Stimpson, "He has a unique ability to bring disparate points of view together, a skill that was particularly valuable in working with ICAO." (It was a skill that was also used in the extreme when Stimpson, then head of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and Boyer led the charge for product liability reform and the passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act.)
And with Stimpson now moving back home to Idaho, it is extraordinarily important that the next U.S. ambassador to ICAO be GA-savvy, to work hand-in-glove with IAOPA to protect the interests of general aviation pilots worldwide.
IAOPA was formed by two AOPA legends - Doc Hartranft and Max Karant - who saw that ICAO in its early days was concentrating solely on commercial air travel, leaving international GA travel out in the cold. By 1964, IAOPA was accredited as the official representative of general aviation before ICAO.
IAOPA has a pretty ambitious and encompassing objective - "Elimination of barriers which impede the utilization of general aviation aircraft for international flights, such as restricted airspace, unreasonable advance diplomatic clearances, customs security deposits on aircraft, excessive inspection and clearance fees, unduly long advance notification requirements, and restriction of international airports against general aviation traffic."
IAOPA is working specifically for domestic aviators as well. Remember we said ICAO can affect U.S. fliers? The transition to 406-MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) is being driven by ICAO. Old-timers remember when weather reports weren't called METARs and TAFs, another ICAO-mandated change.
In about two weeks, IAOPA representatives will be in Montreal for an aviation security panel. Until now, ICAO has only been concerned with commercial security. "If they attempt to apply the same standards to general aviation, they'll put us out of business," said John Sheehan, IAOPA secretary general.
But a positive item under ICAO consideration is a five-year medical for pilots under the age of 40. And while the United States sometimes chooses to take exception to ICAO standards, those standards can also be the impetus to move American policy and regulation into new arenas.
March 11, 2005