Listen to the people
The crescendo against the administration's FAA funding bill is rising faster than the petitions are filling up at Sun 'n Fun.
"Joe Cessna 172 pilot" (as FAA Administrator Blakey calls GA pilots) is hopping mad and not going to take it any more.
"To put it frankly, I'm rather upset at our government," said D.J. Merrill of Durham, North Carolina, after he signed the giant petition in front of the AOPA tent. "The proposal that came out of the White House is stupid, shortsighted, and if it actually goes through in its current form, it's going to kill aviation as we know it."
Merrill said that if the 50 cents per gallon gas tax is imposed, he'd have to cut his flying "by at least half, if not more, and that's a shame."
"This is the commercial airlines trying to get us to pay for their mistakes," said Phil Murray, St. Cloud, Florida. "They're trying to get another bailout because they can't manage their own businesses."
Richard Bates of Lakeland, Florida, said, "If you want to know what would happen, just look at Europe." He also said that a gas tax increase would "sure curtail my flying."
More than 10,000 pilots rushed to sign AOPA's petition opposing the FAA's funding proposal during Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida. The FAA's proposal would increase general aviation fuel taxes by nearly fourfold and, for the first time in U.S. history, impose a pay-to-fly user fee system.
"This overwhelming response is hard evidence from the pilot community of what AOPA and the other aviation associations have been saying for two years - the vast silent majority of the aviation community does not and will not support the FAA scheme," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've had to order more of the petition forms because of the demand and the passion this issue has generated.
"Congress is already sitting up and taking notice," he continued. "The FAA and Administrator Marion Blakey need to as well."
Each petition is 7 feet high and 15 feet wide with space for nearly 5,000 signatures. There are three posted around the Sun 'n Fun grounds. Visitors are arriving at Sun 'n Fun aware of the petition drive and are actively seeking AOPA staffers to locate the petitions. By the end of the first day, the petition posted next to AOPA's Big Yellow Tent was nearly three-quarters full.
"We expect interest in the petition to grow as AOPA Day at Sun 'n Fun (Friday, April 20) approaches," said Boyer.
Boyer will explain in much greater detail the FAA funding scheme and the threat it poses to general aviation when he hosts a Pilot Town Meeting at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday evening (April 19) at Sun 'n Fun.
Updated: April 20, 2007, 1:35 p.m. EDT