AOPA President Phil Boyer presented the association's prestigious Joseph B. Hartranft, Jr. "Doc" Award to Costello.
"Jerry has been a longtime supporter and friend of general aviation," said Boyer. "That support has shown most recently in his leadership in proposing a bill for funding the FAA and air traffic modernization."
As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aviation subcommittee, Costello held a record 10 hearings on FAA issues in an effort to fully explore and understand the critical aviation needs to be addressed in FAA Reauthorization. This culminated in the introduction and passage by the House of his bill, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R.2881), which received wide praise from AOPA and the general aviation community.
Realizing that the impact on general aviation would be devastating, Costello rejected the FAA and airline proposal to establish a user-fee-funded system. When describing the process to his colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee, he explained, "We went into the reauthorization process with an open mind. We heard from the administration. We heard from all of the stakeholders, and came to the bipartisan conclusion that, instead of radically changing the current system, that we should stay within the current system and try and look at what is fair."
While providing $13 billion for air traffic control modernization, Costello's bill ensures the FAA's progress will be closely monitored by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation's Inspector General. This thoughtful approach protects all users of the national airspace system, as well as U.S. taxpayers.
Costello is a vocal advocate for general aviation airports and in 2003 helped to negotiate the language to unlock the aviation trust fund and ensure these dollars were utilized for the intended purpose. This landmark legislation established entitlement grants for general aviation airports under the Airport Improvement Program. Costello recognizes GA airports as vital, national assets, and his support for these types of facilities extends outside his district. He voted to support Meigs Field when the National Aviation Capacity Expansion Act (H.R.3479) came before him in 2002.
In the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Costello worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact sensible changes for aviation security. He has questioned the purpose and need of the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Most recently, he included language in his bill (H.R.2881) that requires the FAA to outline its plans to decrease the operational impacts of the ADIZ and improve access to GA airports.
Costello's commitment to aviation safety showed when he learned about the problems with the flight service station modernization. He acted quickly in contacting the administrator, initiating a committee investigation, scheduling a hearing, and inserting language in the FAA reauthorization bill to address the problems. His language requires the FAA to monitor the staffing and training of flight service station specialist.
Costello's nearly two decades of service to the Aviation Committee, in addition to his work on the House Science Committee, has left an immeasurable impact on aviation policy--not just in the United States, but around the world. Elected to Congress in 1988, Costello is currently serving his eleventh term representing Illinois' 12th Congressional District and is his nineteenth year on Capitol Hill.
The Joseph B. Hartranft "Doc" Award is named for AOPA's first employee and president of the association for 38 years. It is awarded annually to the federal, state, or local government official who has made the most significant contribution during the year on behalf of GA.
Richard Beach, of San Diego, Calif., received AOPA's Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award, which is given annually to a private citizen for the greatest selfless commitment to general aviation by a private individual.
"Rick's tireless efforts to protect Montgomery Field from an obstruction that was deemed a hazard to air navigation is extraordinary," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "He is a national example of what all pilots can do when their airports are encroached upon."
Beach is the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer for Montgomery Field in San Diego, Calif. When a 12-story building was planned less than one mile from the airport, he contacted the FAA, the California Department of Transportation, the city of San Diego, and AOPA to help stop the construction.
The FAA issued a hazard determination, but construction continued. Despite the FAA's determination, the developer continued construction to the building's planned height. Beach was determined to continue the fight and worked with state and federal officials, who condemned the project; provided flights and technical information to local reporters; and kept the local aviation community updated on the progress.
Even after the city of San Diego issued an order to stop work on the building and remove the top two stories that created the obstacle, Beach continued to work with city hall and monitor the developer's actions to ensure the building height was lowered.
Incompatible land-use concerns have surfaced nationwide as communities choose to develop land close to airports that once were in rural areas. Beach's successful effort shows pilots across the country what can happen if they become involved and are passionate about their local airport.
Beach, an instrument-rated pilot, has been the ASN volunteer for Montgomery Field since 2003 and is active with the Angel Flight organization of volunteer pilots. He is also a member and current president of the Community Airfields Association of San Diego.
October 6, 2007