I've heard from a lot of you since the Bush administration revealed its plan to coddle the airlines and kill general aviation with a 70-cents-a-gallon avgas tax, user fees for flying into Class B airspace, and new or increased fees for other FAA "services."
Many of you know that I try to reply to every e-mail I get, but this week I've received much more than usual. So, I hope you'll understand why I'm going to answer some of your general questions, rather than trying to respond individually.
Most of you want to know what you can do right now to fight this harmful FAA funding proposal. I'll get to that in a moment.
"I'm going to sell my airplane now, Phil, and give up flying because I won't be able to afford it anymore," wrote one, echoing the feelings of many others.
Well, let me tell you - after saving up for years, I now personally own two single-engine airplanes, and I'm not ready to give them up yet. I know in my heart we can win this fight, and we'll do it with the power and assistance of more than 410,000 AOPA members. So don't despair.
We have a battle plan, and it's much more sophisticated than just asking all of you to write your congressman or senator immediately.
Our strategic plan calls for bringing pressure to bear on certain members of Congress at specific times.
In the coming months, each of you will be called to help, but in a highly segmented fashion. And when the final bills are up for vote by the entire Congress, we will issue a national call to action.
Let me explain how this battle will progress so that you can understand when and how you will be called upon to help us fight.
What the administration calls the "Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007" is, at this point, nothing more than a proposed bill sent to Congress.
And the first place it will be vetted is by the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the aviation subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. (See " Point of Order" for more detail and animation of how the proposal will move through Congress.)
The House aviation subcommittee has already scheduled hearings for March 14, and they'll call me to testify on behalf of our members.
Your AOPA legislative affairs staff and I have been lobbying hard for more than two years against the administration's claim that it needs user fees. Now that we have a concrete proposal to work with, I'll begin calling on all of you to help with the fight.
Within a short time, I'll be asking some of you who reside in certain districts to contact your elected officials. These officials are members of key committees in both the Senate and House.
As the proposal moves through other committees, we will call on others to weigh in at the most effective times. And a lot of committees will have interest in this bill, including the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, plus committees with jurisdiction over the military, homeland security, etc.
While some of you have already proactively written to Congress, right now it's time to "talk."
Congress is in recess this week, and most of the senators and congressmen are back home meeting with constituents. If you have the opportunity to talk with your elected representatives, do so. Let them know how important this issue is to you. ( Click here to see a short video from Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri to understand why that face-to-face contact is so important.)
If you do choose to write your representative or your senators now, your communication will be more effective if you send it as a letter or fax. ( See our information on how to contact your representatives and what you can say.) Letters carry more weight than e-mails and are more likely to be seen by the member of Congress, rather than be answered directly by a staffer.
Whenever you send something to Congress, please send me a copy (e-mail to [email protected] or fax to 301/695-2352), and more importantly, send me whatever response you get. We are tracking every single member of Congress. We will hold each one to their promises.
And now my promise to you. We will use every resource we have to defeat the administration's FAA refinancing bill. And, keep in mind, AOPA members have responded to our call for Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, giving us a war chest of funds to help fund the reelection campaigns of "our friends" in Congress.
We will win. And we will do it with the help of each of you, the 410,000-plus members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
P.S. - If you do not receive our weekly AOPA ePilot newsletter, it is very possible we don't have your e-mail address. It is essential we use the speed, efficiency, and geographical targeting capabilities of e-mail to contact you. So make sure we have your e-mail address by visiting " My AOPA Membership" and updating your personal information or by calling our toll-free hotline 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672).
February 20, 2007